In 1987, when he was 19 years old, Christiano Ramos discovered that he had been infected with HIV. A fact that could have led him to despair actually turned into his life mission: in 2000, this native of Paraíba and law school graduate, founded ONG Amigos da Vida, which works in Brasília and is a BrazilFoundation grantee this year.

“Discrimination and unfettered prejudice are the greatest obstacles I’ve had to overcome, and I’ve overcome them by turning a death sentence into a reason to live,” Cristiano tells us.

The Friends of Life Association is the only NGO in the region of Brasília that offers support for those with HIV/AIDS and their close of kin to voice their legal grievances. The Association receives 250 cases per month and attends them with a multidisciplinary service that calls upon doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and nutritionists to assist those in need. These medical professionals work in collaboration with the Public Defenders Office, the Human Rights Commission and Social Services. The Association has also developed partnerships with public hospitals where the social workers direct patients to the associations. They also have initiatives for children: they have built playrooms in hospitals that assist children with HIV.

For Cristiano, there is still a long way to go, even though many goals have already been reached: “the most important goal for our organization is to spread solidarity to the four corners of the world, so that those with HIV, especially the children infected with the virus, can live in a society that values social justice, equality, and liberty and respects human life.