The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Estonian Lutherans support those affected by HIV

Jekaterina Manko comes from a well-to-do family in Narva, northeast Estonia. She divides her professional time between two organizations in the capital, Tallinn, heading up projects that fight the spread of HIV.

It’s a complete turnaround for Manko, a teenage drug user who tested HIV-positive at 18. Now the 25-year-old speaks at seminars run by the 163,500-member Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The seminars are part of the church’s campaign to give its leaders information about HIV, HIV prevention, and theological resources for pastoral care and counseling. The church’s work includes a Lutheran World Federation handbook translated into Estonian and Russian; a video about an HIV-positive church leader in Uganda’s Anglican Church; and “Stepping Stones,” an HIV-prevention program leaders can use to talk with young people about alcohol abuse, drug use, violence, sexuality and sexually transmitted infections.

At each seminar, Manko—or another young woman—tells her story. That’s because, as Irina Moroz, a medical doctor in Tallinn, said: “The AIDS epidemic here has a woman’s face.”

Manko’s face shows someone who has emerged from drug and alcohol dependency, thanks to follow-up meetings with specialists from an AIDS center and a Narcotics Anonymous group. Today she has the medicines she needs and considers her health good.

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