Christians Thinking about HIV

Articles and reports on the Christian response to the challenges of HIV.

Church Views on Sexuality: Recovering the Middle Ground. 11/2013

From Ekklesia

It is clear that Christians hold a spectrum of views on sexuality and marriage. However, the popular idea that there are two warring blocks that may be labelled ‘traditionalists’ and ‘revisionists’ is simplistic and can be misleading as well as unhelpful. Current tensions could be reduced and reframed significantly if more church leaders acknowledged the extent of common ground in the middle of this continuum, allowed limited flexibility of practice, and enabled their communities to develop practices of discernment oriented towards the “grace and truth” (John 1.13-15) that lies at the heart of the Christian message. In this paper, Ekklesia associate Savitri Hensman identifies seven widely held positions on sexuality. She suggests that those with supposedly diametrically opposing views often have more in common than they may at first think. Equally, she argues, in Christian terms, that coexistence among those sharing a 'middle ground' is not about weak compromise, but instead reflects an approach both deeply rooted in Bible and tradition and open to change as a living community led by the Spirit.

Read the full paper (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document, 12 pages, 193kb ) here:

Faith groups in Africa address HIV/AIDS stigma. 12/5/2014

WACC Global

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Stakeholders in the project “Empowering Faith Leaders to Reduce HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination” at a press briefing in Lagos for the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial in May 2013.” Photo: Hope for HIV/AIDS International


Religious organizations in Africa are at the front line of caring for those with HIV infection and AIDS, but they are also seeking to combat the social stigma associated with the disease, according to a new report.

Survey responses from seven Christian, one Muslim and one interfaith organization indicate that there are three strategies for addressing stigma: knowledge sharing, uplifting and supporting individuals, and advocating for and on behalf of stigmatized groups.

“Eliminating stigma and discrimination against people both living with and vulnerable to HIV must be a core priority. And as faith communities we have a crucial role to play,” wrote Ruth Foley, HIV Campaign Coordinator, Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, in the report’s foreword.

The report, “Faith Leaders and HIV Stigma Reduction in Africa: Good Practices Collection,” is a collection of case studies of faith-based initiatives aimed at reducing HIV-related discrimination.

WACC and project partner Hope for HIV/AIDS International (HFA), based in Lagos, Nigeria, commissioned the Christian AIDS Bureau for Southern Africa (CABSA) to research and put together the case studies.

WACC and HFA are involved in an initiative titled “Empowering Faith Leaders to Reduce HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination in Lagos, Nigeria.” It is funded largely by UKaid of the Department for International Development (DFID) in the United Kingdom.

The project objective is “to empower religious leaders in 10 local government areas in Lagos to undertake advocacy and community strategies that recognize and strengthen the rights and dignity of people living with HIV.” It began in July 2011 and is scheduled to end in December.

Faith leaders and institutions “wield tremendous influence at the ground level and have at the core of their ethos the mandate to tackle injustice and demonstrate compassion. But we must not shy away from the fact that some faith communities and religious leaders have fostered, and continue to foster, HIV-related stigma and discrimination,” Foley wrote.

“We must ask ourselves the hard questions about why stigma and discrimination persist to date in so many societies and at so many levels today.  We must be clearer and more visible in our efforts to disseminate evidence-based information about HIV and AIDS, to foster dialogue to tackle the ‘difficult’ issues and to harness the positive power of faith communities to include and support people living with HIV,” she said.

Fighting discrimination is important, the report says, because stigma can discourage individuals from being tested for HIV, accessing care and treatment, learning about and using effective means of prevention such as condoms, disclosing their HIV status to intimate partners and talking or living openly with their status to enable support.

Stigma and discrimination also can cause individuals living with HIV to be alienated from their families and friends, threatens their livelihood and thus their ability to provide for themselves and their families, and adds psychological and spiritual stress in addition to medical concerns, the report says.

Faith communities have often been judged for the role some have played in creating and entrenching stigma due to moral judgments, but faith communities have also been leaders in providing care and support – and in addressing the pervasive stigma present within religious communities and in the wider society, it adds.

According to the responses from the nine religious groups, the three significant ways to address stigma include:

-          Knowledge sharing -- all forms of education, from one-on-one discussions to formal classroom presentations. Stigma is often based in fear and lack of knowledge. Training can involve one-day awareness workshops or seven-day residential “facilitator” training. Workshops also include modules on the need for advocacy.

-          “Upliftment”-- all processes of physical and mental care or support given to individuals or groups, from clothing and food to employment, hospices and care centers, to organizations supplying psycho-social support. The upliftment of individuals leads to increased self-worth and reduction of self-stigma. In addition, “modeling” behavior of a faith-based organization towards a person living with HIV shows others that their fears and the stigma are unfounded.

-          Advocacy approaches can range from lobbying governments and large organizations to presenting workshops on stigma, printing and distributing posters, or arranging group gatherings or marches addressing a specific issue. Advocacy builds a groundswell against stigma or unfair practices with a view to corrective action and social change, and makes people living with HIV and experiencing stigma aware that stigmatizing behavior is not acceptable and there are organizations they can approach for support.

Nigeria and HIV stigma reduction

WACC Global

WACC is currently partnering with Hope for HIV/AIDS International (HFA) based in Lagos, Nigeria, in a three and a half year project to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination. The project was awarded a grant by UKaid from the Department for International Development (DFID). WACC will be developing this page to reflect the project's progress and achievements.

The HFA project will educate pastors and other grassroots leaders in Lagos, Nigeria, about HIV-related stigma, giving them knowledge and communication tools to increase care and support efforts and to advocate for the rights of people living with or affected by HIV. The project aims to reach 2000 religious and community leaders with strong involvement of women and people living with HIV.

Rex Ajenifuja, HFA Executive Director, stated, “I am so delighted that we are able to work together in this mission to empower religious leaders to use their authority and reach in the best possible way – to offer care and compassion, to share accurate information, and to take action for the rights of people living with HIV.”

Nigeria has the second highest number of people living with HIV and deaths due to AIDS-related illnesses in any country according to UNAIDS statistics, with HIV prevalence rates increasing in Lagos. Stigma and discrimination contributes to the spread of the pandemic through the resulting isolation, loss of livelihood or education possibilities, and lack of support and care. The presence of HIV-related stigma also causes individuals to avoid testing and not seek the treatment and support they need to live full, productive lives.

“Getting this project for Lagos means a lot for the entire population of Nigeria,” emphasized Ajenifuja. “With over 15 million people, Lagos State constitutes about 10% of the entire country, with representation of every institution, every tribe and every clique in Nigeria. Everything that takes place there directly affects the entire country as a whole. It is our ultimate hope as we put every efforts together that the project will impact the country.”

This is the second grant received by WACC from DFID. An earlier DFID grant supported a local, rights-based communication strategy implemented by the Christian Council of Ghana to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination in three districts in the country. The three-year project concluded in June 2011.

“This grant award recognizes the quality and need of our proposed project as well as the success of our work in Ghana” stated Rev. Karin Achtelstetter, WACC’s General Secretary. “Through the intense efforts of the Christian Council of Ghana, we have demonstrated the transformation that can be achieved when you have a local, rights-based communication strategy that involves and empowers the real leaders in a community.”

Hope for HIV/AIDS International was founded in 1999 and is dedicated to training and advocacy among religious communities, especially with high risk and vulnerable groups such as people living with HIV, women, youth and children.  A WACC-supported HFA project in 2007-2008 was nominated for a national “Red Ribbon” award, and received second place in the “Breaker of Silence” Category.

 

Faith Leaders and HIV Stigma Reduction in Africa: Good Practices Collection

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, an international network of over 80 churches and Christian organizations advocating together on issues of common concern, has campaigned on HIV and AIDS since 2001, with overcoming HIV-related stigma and discrimination a key focus of its efforts.

The World Association for Christian Communication, an EAA member, has been a leader in addressing stigma and discrimination through communication and advocacy, upholding the rights of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and empowering communities to speak out in support of all those affected.

WACC’s partnership with Hope for HIV/AIDS International in this project to empower faith leaders in Lagos, Nigeria to become advocates for PLHIV is a model of the kind of efforts needed in “Getting to Zero”.

The project has published a collection of case studies of good practices as a contribution to identifying practices and organizations that can more systematically and effectively help to reduce stigma and discrimination. 

Fourteen Percent Of Americans Believe AIDS Might Be God's Punishment: Survey 18/03/14

The Huffington Post  | by  Antonia Blumberg

WASHINGTON, DC, JULY 24: Aaron M. Laxton, joined a few thousand activists and protesters in a march to the White House in Washington, D.C., on July 24, 2012. The overarching theme of the protests called for an end to AIDS. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images) WASHINGTON, DC, JULY 24: Aaron M. Laxton, joined a few thousand activists and protesters in a march to the White House in Washington, D.C., on July 24, 2012. The overarching theme of the protests called for an end to AIDS. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

All signs point to the fact that, on the whole, the U.S. is moving toward a much more tolerant stance on same-sex marriage and LGBT issues, in general.

A recent survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) delineated the ways in which Americans' beliefs surrounding LGBT issues have shifted. Included in this was the fact that far fewer Americans today believe AIDS might be a punishment from God.

Believe it or not, in 1992, a whopping 36 percent of Americans believed AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior. Only 57 percent strongly disagreed. In 2013, 14 percent of Americans believed AIDS might be punishment from God, while a full 81 percent actively disagreed with this notion.

Americans are also considerably more judgmental toward those living with HIV or AIDS in the U.S. than they are toward those living with HIV or AIDS in the developing world. Sixty-five percent of Americans believe those living with HIV or AIDS in the U.S. became infected due to irresponsible behavior, while only 41 percent say the same about those living with HIV or AIDS in the developing world.

Since the outbreak of AIDS in the early 1980s, some conservative religious groups have come forward to loudly blame so-called "immoral" lifestyles for the epidemic. In 1987, Reverend Jerry Falwell famously said, “God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah primarily because of the sin of homosexuality. Today He is again bringing judgment against this wicked practice through AIDS.”

Today, such antagonistic attitudes toward homosexuality are turning younger members of religious groups away from their congregations. The same PRRI survey found that nearly one-third of Millennials who left the faith they grew up with did so in part due to "negative teachings" or "negative treatment" related to gays and lesbians.

Good News on AIDS in Africa 12/05/2014

Deaths are down, and the heroes of the story aren’t who you think.

Jenny Trinitapoli and Alexander Weinreb

The latest news on AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, the epidemic’s epicenter, is good. New HIV infections have declined by 25 percent since 2001, AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 32 percent over the past 6 years, and there are expanded options for testing and treatment. After decades of doom-and-gloom news about AIDS in Africa, optimism is finally in the air.

What’s behind this positive turn? The standard narrative attributes these recent improvements to Western engagement. The heroes are the best-known acronyms in the world of AIDS (PEPFAR, UNAIDS, WHO), the Global Fund, and a host of NGOs. Together, these organizations have waged total war against AIDS in Africa—or what looks like total war if you compare it to efforts devoted to other diseases. They have spent tens of billions of dollars. They have mobilized legions of scientists, medical professionals, development workers, educators, TV programmers, marketing specialists, and volunteers. And they have shunned, silenced, and demonized those who oppose their good work. The good news about AIDS in Africa—so this standard narrative goes—is the result of their efforts. It’s proof that even on that dark and desperate continent, awash with ancient superstitions, hypersexuality, dangerous traditional practices, and poor leadership, AIDS cannot withstand a sustained pummeling by well-intentioned and well-financed outsiders.

This narrative contains some important elements of truth: Pharmacological treatments in particular are transforming HIV from a death sentence into a manageable, chronic condition, at least for those with access to antiretrovirals. But most of the measured improvements in AIDS in Africa are actually the result of cumulative, widespread behavior change that has led to a reduction in new HIV infections. In other words, the standard narrative is wrong.

The narrative is wrong because it ignores local African responses to AIDS and characterizes religion and religious leaders as part of the problem. We have systematically studied the role of religious leaders in sub-Saharan Africa for about a decade. As a single class of people, local religious leaders sit at the very top of our list of who should receive credit for the behavior changes that have curbed the spread of HIV in Africa.

This statement may surprise or even irritate people imagining fire-and-brimstone preachers who condemn the use of condoms, push conservative messages about sex and morality, and interpret AIDS as God’s wrath. That’s not what African religious leaders have been doing—quite the contrary. Yet their story remains untold.

Approximately 90 percent of Africans participate regularly in some religious congregation, and religious leaders have been preaching about sexual morality, in particular about abstinence and fidelity. But Africa’s religious leaders began doing this before PEPFAR and Western public health authorities told them to—long before the attention of the development world turned to AIDS in Africa. What prompted their efforts? Certainly not the fact that they were, or are, getting paid to do this by foreign NGOs. Ninety percent of congregation leaders in Malawi, where we began working on AIDS in 2004, have never seen a penny from any international NGO or their programs. Rather, they started preaching and teaching and facilitating conversations about AIDS when they became overwhelmed with caregiving and burial responsibilities, and when their members—especially the women—began demanding that they do so.

Local religious messages about abstinence and faithfulness are, at their root, moral messages, but not exclusively so. For nearly two decades, religious leaders of various stripes in Malawi—a religiously diverse country with high HIV prevalence—have been offering practical messages about how to resist the temptation of beautiful women, how to prevent jealousies in polygynous households, how to discern whether a boyfriend or girlfriend will be a faithful spouse in the long run, and why withholding sex within marriage might be risky for both partners. These messages have mattered. In congregations where AIDS and sexual mortality are discussed regularly, unmarried people are more likely to report being abstinent and married individuals faithful to their spouses.

At first, we worried that reporting bias (people wanting to appear good and consistent to interviewers asking invasive questions about religion, sexual behavior, etc.) could be driving this pattern. But when tested the responses against both more subjective and more objective criteria, the story checked out: Members of these congregations are less worried about AIDS (a good indicator that they aren’t exposing themselves to much risk), and they’re less likely to test positive for HIV. Far from pushing fire-and-brimstone doctrine, religious messages about abstinence and faithfulness have been pragmatic and effective. They have reduced the spread of HIV in countless African communities that have been unreached by resources from the Global Fund and its counterparts.

In addition to pushing ideas about sexual morality that have roots (even if shallow ones) in religious texts, religious leaders have been promoting innovations to prevent the spread of HIV. These stories, too, have gone untold—unacknowledged by the scientific literature and Western press. We have to wonder why, because condoms, divorce, and booze often make for excellent stories. 

On condoms—the public health buff’s favorite subject—religious leaders have been taking pragmatic positions. Most support the use of condoms to prevent HIV transmission. In the late 1980s, a Catholic priest in Tanzania, Father Bernard Joinet, designed a prevention campaign that used images of lifeboats in a sea of AIDS, including one (rubber) boat labeled “condom.” With the support of many religious leaders and organizations, including the Islamic Medical Association of Uganda, this balanced and pragmatic message quickly diffused throughout East Africa.

Of course, support for condoms doesn’t mean that religious leaders are excitedly doling out condoms after communion. They are simply resigned to condoms as a lesser evil. At the same time, they criticize what they see as an obsessive focus on condom promotion on simple pragmatic grounds. First, condom-sex isn’t sustainable in real relationships where there is a desire to procreate. (Childbearing remains important in Africa!) A second factor is pleasure. Said one of the many people we interviewed: “Sex with a condom is like eating a banana with the peel still on it. I’ve never liked those gadgets.” This is why most of the more than 200 religious leaders we interviewed think that condoms are not a sustainable way for couples to live their lives, navigate their relationships, and fully enjoy sex. With regrets to the Vatican and to its critics, low levels of condom use across Africa have little to do with official church teachings. When it comes to AIDS in contemporary Africa, official positions have taken a back seat to pragmatic ideas about how to avoid infection.

This pragmatism is evident in messages about alternative prevention strategies—many of which are endorsed by religious leaders. We frequently found religious leaders articulating new ways to navigate risky relationships, especially risky marriages, where one partner (imagine a careless, womanizing husband) is putting the other (stereotypically, a woman) at risk. In Malawi, we have documented a liberalization of attitudes toward divorce that, importantly, is specific to AIDS. Female-initiated divorce is not just tolerated under these circumstances—it is actively supported. Religious communities have been economically and emotionally supporting women who leave philandering husbands to protect themselves and to reduce the chance of their children being orphaned. New vocabulary for a religiously just divorce has emerged as AIDS has spread. Women have been using these ideas to pressure their husbands to change their ways and to kick out dangerous husbands (“Take your mat and go!” as our colleague Enid Schatz has described it) while leaving their own reputations intact.

Another example is related to religious prohibitions against alcohol consumption. Religious leaders from historically imbibing traditions have begun to preach about abstaining from alcohol, and many from historically teetotaling traditions have intensified their message. They have also begun to police members’ drinking. To Western ears this sounds like an effort to exert quasi-inquisitional religious authority over individuals. But understand the context. Many of us drink in the comfort of our own homes (often accompanied by our loving partners). But consumption of alcohol across Africa tends to be more public and to occur in places that provide opportunities for unsafe sex: Women working at bars and bottle shops often double as prostitutes. So the religious leaders we interviewed not only preach against drinking and drunkenness, they also patrol local bars to deter members from wandering down a road that might lead to temptation and compromised decision-making. This is true not only of Christians. At the behest of his female congregants, one of our favorite imams camps out each evening at the trading center to send thirsty male Muslims safely home to their wives before they even have the chance to make a bad choice.

There is a more empirically accurate narrative about religion and AIDS in Africa, and we’ve described it at length in our recent book Religion and AIDS in Africa. There is no ambiguity in the data: Religion has been central to curbing the spread of HIV in local communities across sub-Saharan Africa. Measurable changes and improvements were detectable before PEPFAR and Gates dollars started rolling in. This leaves the puzzle of why this story has remained untold for so long while atypical stories of religious leaders pushing abstinence and burning condoms continue to circulate widely.

Is this just a typical misrepresentation of Africa? That seems a plausible explanation. With some exceptions, journalistic coverage of Africa tends to be flawed, especially when it deals with religion. Favored topics are religious superstitions, leaders’ malfeasance, and poverty-porn featuring witchcraft. Since we can’t get into the heads of Western journalists on the Africa beat or their editors, we make no assumptions about the underlying motives here. But it is 2013, and the West is still in the thrall of the outdated assumption that societies need to jettison old superstitions (religion in particular) in order to modernize. More troubling, Westerners have a hard time seeing anything uniquely African as a positive source of change.

There’s a more general problem, neatly captured in Binyavanga Wainaina’s amusing piece for Granta called “How to Write About Africa.” In the standard narrative, ignorant or aimless Africans passively await guidance and assistance from plucky Westerners who ride in to help—often to intense applause. (Think of Nick Kristof’s regular columns praising earnest American volunteers.) Like Wainaina, we read such stories cautiously and suspiciously. Beyond being mildly offensive, these narratives simply don’t fit the Africa we know—a place, like any other, in which people converse about and respond to AIDS, famine, war, and plain-old daily hardships in contested and complex ways. On the world’s most religious continent, people use religious ideas, language, and organizations to address problems, big and small. This is the source of religion’s positive contribution to the recent improvements in Africa’s AIDS situation. Such stories need to be told.

 

 

Jenny Trinitapoli is an assistant professor of sociology, demography, and religious studies at Penn State University. She is a co-author of Religion and AIDS in Africa.

 

 

Alexander Weinreb is an associate professor in the department of sociology and a research associate of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a author of Religion and AIDS in Africa.  

 

HIV Competence

Lyn's Comment: The term HIV competence is increasingly used to describe and efficient and effective response to HIV.  This is also reflected in faith communities.

Lyn and Nelis attended a consultation on “Understanding and Mainstreaming HIV & AIDS-Competence for Churches” (read more...) and we hope to reflect the concept increasingly in the work CABSA does.

After this conference CABSA friend and colleague Dr Sue Parry from EHAIA wrote the following in e-mail communication:

"Just this morning, I was in the chapel near my work and reflecting on the story from Luke 18: 35-42 (the blind beggar who received his sight) and it seemed so pertinent to our work with HIV competence. We have all these workshops, awareness creation, trainings etc with church leaders, HIV coordinators etc but the question remains: what do you WANT (me to do for you)? It goes back to this inner and outer competence. If we do not see the importance of HIV work and responses in our own lives, in our own communities, all these trainings are interesting academic exercises. The process of 'building a dream' makes one really look inwards and outwards: what do we really want for ourselves, our families and our church?

 I believe that unless we focus our attention towards what we really see as need and want to change, everything else is like floating information with rather diluted action and response. Yes we are doing something, which may be very noble, but is it really making a positive difference and is it all we can do, or is it all we want to do?

 .... Again, from the morning thoughts, the blind beggar did not ask for his circumstances to be changed, for a caregiver, for a job, for dignity, for companionship on his life journey, all he asked for was his sight. It was as though he was saying, just give me my sight, I can do the rest myself. If church leadership sees the value of such HIV competence processes, they can do the rest themselves - they know how to mobilise people, they can find the missing information and training and so on. It is the vision that is lacking. After a claimed vision, comes motivation and passion and more than half the work is done."

HIV competence also formed part of the discussions and presentations at the Inter-faith Pre-Conference at the 4th SA AIDS Conference. You can download the presentations here

Resources for HIV Competence

 

Competence - Books

 Please let us know if you have other resources to share

Beacons of Hope. HIV Competent Churches, A Framework for Action

Download the book (PDF, 104p. 1.2 MB). 

Download the book in Portuguese below.

Churches and faith-based organisations are keen to address the needs of people and communities dealing with HIV and AIDS. Yet responses are often unbalanced and tainted with an "us" and "them" mentality. In an attempt to guide these efforts towards a more holistic understanding of what is needed in this context, Dr Parry presents a framework for action. She asks churches and faith-based organisations to challenge themselves: to understand that HIV is within their ranks and to respond appropriately by reconsidering their core value system and faith mandate. The challenge is to become an HIV competent church.

From the website: "This handbook is a framework for action designed for those who have leadership roles in churches, particularly for those who are already involved in responding to HIV. It seeks to explain what HIV competence is, why the need for competence, what is often missing, and to challenge the reader to seek to develop such competence. The principles outlined here are not confined to church leaders and may have relevance to anyone in involved in this demanding field who may feel that ‘something is lacking’."

Content:

Introduction
Acknowledgements
Part 1: HIV Competence Why and What?
- Why Churches need ‘Competence’
- HIV and AIDS Immuno-Competence
- Definitions of HIV and AIDS Competence
- What does HIV Competence Involve?
Part 2: Inner Competence
- An HIV Competent Church is a Church that:
- Acknowledges the Scope and Risk of HIV
- Accepts the (God-Given) Imperative to Respond Appropriately and with Compassion
Part 3: The Bridging Connection
- The Bridge between Inner and Outer Competence
- Leadership
- Knowledge
- Resources
Part 4: Outer Competence
Outer Competence: The Seven Components
1. Theological Competence on HIV
2. Technical Competence
3. Social Relevance
4. Inclusiveness
5. Networking: Seeking Allies and Collaboration for Increased Scale and Sustainability
6. Advocacy
7. Compassion and the Restoration of Dignity and Hope
Conclusion: Churches as Beacons of Hope
References
Web-Sites
Annex 1 Aids Competent Church
Annex 2 Key Challenges In Resource Mobilization
- Capacity
- Donor and FBO Policy Issues
Annex 3 The Ecumenical HIV/Aids Initiative in Africa (EHAIA)
- Plan of Action
Annex 4 Bench Marks And self Assessment Tools
- HIV Competent Church Benchmarks and Self-Assessment Tool

 

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Practicing Hope. A Handbook for Building HIV and AIDS Competence in the Churches

 

 

 

HIV—the ongoing challenge to churches and church leaders— Almost thirty-five years after the advent of HIV and AIDS, churches, church bodies and church leaders are developing competence in handling the enormous personal, communal, cultural and religious dimensions of the epidemic. Yet the challenge is ongoing and global. While the rate of new infections is declining in Africa, for example, it is on the rise in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Practising HopeEdited by Sue Parry

EHAIA series

Specs: 200 pp.; 5.5 x 8”; paper; perfect; 4-colour series cover

Topic/Shelving: Health / Pastoral Care

ISBN: 978-2-8254-1622-8

Price: CHF 22.00; Price£14.00; €14.00; $22.00; Spring 2014

Order: www.amazon.co.uk, www.amazon.com, www.ISBS.com, www.gazellebookservices.co.uk and at local bookstores and online booksellers.

HIV—the ongoing challenge to churches and church leaders—

Almost thirty-five years after the advent of HIV and AIDS, churches, church bodies and church leaders are developing competence in handling the enormous personal, communal, cultural and religious dimensions of the epidemic.  Yet the challenge is ongoing and global. While the rate of new infections is declining in Africa, for example, it is on the rise in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Dr. Sue Parry, whose Beacons of Hope provided a breakthrough in helping African and other churches gain HIV competence, here gathers the clinical and pastoral knowledge of a generation into a handbook for pastoral caregivers, seminary educators, and professionals in ministry. A sophisticated and comprehensive framework, the book also demonstrates and facilitates the vital role that churches can play in addressing not just the clinical but also the deeper cultural and religious dimension of the HIV epidemic. Parry’s practical and perceptive guide to mainstreaming HIV competence in the churches enables Christians and Christian churches not merely to envision hope but also to practice it.

Dr Sue Parry is a physician from Zimbabwe with broad experience in the provision of clinical care in both rural and urban, in government and church settings.  She is regional coordinator for Southern Africa of the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA).

Click here to download the table of contents, introduction and chapter 1 (pdf)

Acting in Hope. African Churches and HIV/AIDS 2

Download PDF (575 KB). Hard copies available from CARIS

In this book Ezra Chitando calls upon African churches to train their voices in speaking out and challenging systems of oppression so that AIDS competent churches work towards the transformation of death-dealing practices while strengthening life-enhancing ones.  He argues that the response of African churches to HIV epidemic will be determined by the quality of their theological education and the ability of the current generation of Africans to question the culture it inherited, amongst other contextual issues. Chitando insists that not only must churches with quick feet, long arms, warm hearts and loud voices necessarily have sharp minds but that a critical analysis of African cultural believes and practices must occur.                                                  Contents:                                                        
-Acknowledgment
- Introduction
- Acting in Solidarity with Women
- Supporting Children and Families
- Including Disability
- Nurturing Faithful Men
- Sharpening Minds
- Conclusion

Living With Hope. African Churches and HIV/AIDS 1

Download as pdf document (543 KB). Also available in print from CARIS.

Addressing the need for an in-depth understanding and analysis of how Churches in Africa are living with the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, Ezra Chitando's book insists that the church must accompany people and communities living with HIV and AIDS  on the journey of faith. He argues that the church in Africa must be one with friendly feet, which ministers to every need, thus repenting its negative attitudes as well as the stigma and discrimination surrounding the disease.                                                      

Content:
- Acknowledgements
- Introduction
1.  The church in Africa: an overview
2. A weakened response to HIV/AIDS
3. Churches with friendly feet
4.  Churches with anointed hands                  
- Conclusion
 

 

CUAHA - Churches United against HIV & AIDS in Eastern and Southern Africa

CUAHA has worked on developing a tool that churches and other organizations could use to observe their HIV competence: to measure their own strengths and weaknesses and to help to plan the way forward. This tool focuses on the issue especially from the point of view of religious organizations.

CUAHA launched a new publication 'Towards an HIV and AIDS Competent Church' that was launched in Nairobi, Kenya at the end of October, to help churches to evaluate their own competency in this area.  You can download the book below

(CUAHA is having problems with there website - we will let you know when the site is back online.

You can read the press release of the launch here..

 

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Other Resources

 

The Constellation for AIDS Competence

Vision

Our Vision is a world where AIDS Competence spreads more quickly than the virus.
In an AIDS Competent society, we as people in families, in communities, in organisations, and in policy making act from strength:
  • to acknowledge the reality of HIV and AIDS,
  • to build our capacity to respond,
  • to reduce our vulnerability to risk,
  • to allow everyone to live out their full potential, and
  • to share our experience with others

The Constellation provides a number of AIDS Competence Process Tools and reports:

 

What Is an HIV and Aids Competent Faith Community? Dr Sue Parry

Presentation at the Inter-faith Pre-Conference of the 4th SA AIDS Conference on 31st March 2009.

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Local Faith Leaders Can End the AIDS Crisis. 16/12/2013

, President, EMPACT Africa, In the Huffington Post

 The AIDS crisis isn't over. Many people believe that it is, thanks to the availability of life-saving medication. However, only a third of the people who need the medication are actually receiving it. And the number who need it grows every year. In 2011, about 1.7 million people died from AIDS-related diseases, but 2.5 million people became infected by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, a net increase of 800,000 people living with HIV.

 Yes, there has been tremendous progress in the medical and scientific aspects of HIV and AIDS. But there has been much less progress on the social aspects of the pandemic, especially the stigma associated with the disease. Why is stigma so important?

For more on the importance of stigma in the AIDS Crisis, see recent articles by Sir Elton John in USA Today and the New York Times.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Leaders of local faith communities have substantial influence over the attitudes and behavior of the members of their faith communities and indirectly over the attitudes and behavior of the wider communities of which they are a part. When these leaders take action, stigmatizing attitudes and behavior change. Local faith leaders are uniquely positioned to eliminate stigma by taking action against it. In fact, we won't end the AIDS crisis without action by local faith leaders: An AIDS-free generation requires stigma-free faith communities.

In the past, faith leaders have often spoken about HIV as divine punishment for immoral behavior, despite the fact that many people living with HIV had no control over the circumstances of their infection (for example, women who are raped, children who are infected through their mothers). As the reality and scope of the AIDS pandemic became apparent, faith leaders often shifted toward silence -- HIV and AIDS became topics to be avoided because they are uncomfortable to talk about. While silence is better than overt judgmental preaching, silence does nothing to reduce stigma, and in fact, reinforces it.

So what actions can local faith leaders take? Several simple steps can go a long way toward reducing stigma:

Educate the members about the disease. There is still a substantial amount of myth and misinformation about HIV and AIDS. Local faith leaders can spearhead educational campaigns to spread correct information about AIDS, HIV, treatment, modes of transmission, and methods of prevention.

Emphasize compassion and acceptance of people living with HIV. In a previous blog, I described The Compassion Gap, a tendency to give messages of personal responsibility for avoiding infection much more often than messages of compassion and acceptance of those who are infected. While messages of personal responsibility are important, they often reinforce stigma. Emphasis on compassion and acceptance is required to combat stigma successfully.

Acknowledge the distinction between the moral and medical aspects of HIV infection. Regardless of the mode of transmission, whether or not it involved behavior seen as immoral, a person living with HIV has a serious medical condition. For a person who has just learned that he or she is HIV-positive, the most important thing is acceptance and assistance with the day-to-day practicalities of living with HIV -- a lecture about why or how they became infected is counterproductive and even dangerous.

Present personal testimonies by people living with HIV. Personal stories can be especially powerful because they put a human face on the disease. A Framework for Dialogue was recently launched by UNAIDS and other organizations to facilitate open discussion among faith leaders and people living with HIV.

Encourage HIV testing for all members. If all members are tested, then the stigma associated with testing will be significantly reduced. Testing facilities can be set up near faith community gatherings, and the faith leaders can be the first in line to be tested.

We know that action by local faith leaders works. For several years, EMPACT Africa has been helping local pastors in southern Africa to eliminate stigma in their congregations. The results have shown that when local pastors take consistent and persistent action, stigmatizing attitudes are significantly reduced.

In many ways, the battle against stigma is the last battle of the war against AIDS. Fortunately, it is a battle that can be won -- all we need is for enough local faith leaders to take up the fight. If they do, then we can finally bring an end to the AIDS crisis.

More than a Prayer: Your Response to Sexual Violence and HIV. 15/10/2013

Catherine Sozi, Presentation to the National Church Leaders Meeting

As I was driving to this meeting this evening, I heard on radio that there is trouble in Diepsloot. 2 toddlers, aged 2 and 3, have been found dead and mutilated, possibly raped this afternoon, in a toilet and the community have gone berserk. This sets the scene for what I want to talk to you about.

Sexual violence and HIV in South Africa and your response to it…..we need more than a prayer.

Just last month, in September 2013, UNAIDS presented the latest UNAIDS Global AIDS Report in which we recorded the progress that countries have made with regards to the HIV epidemic.

Globally, new HIV infections among adults and children reduced by 33% since 2001. In children alone, new HIV infections reduced to 260 000 in 2012, a reduction of 52% since 2001. AIDS-related deaths have also dropped by 30% since the peak in 2005 as access to antiretroviral treatment expands. By the end of 2012, some 9.7 million people in low- and middle-income countries were accessing antiretroviral therapy, an increase of nearly 20% in just one year.

And the global contribution has been markedly influenced by successes in South Africa. The number of children born with HIV has reduced from 28,000 to 14,000 in one year. The number of people ever started on ARVs where just over 2m by the end of 2012 resulting in fewer deaths and an increase in life expectancy over a 5 year period. Quite remarkable!

But while the news is good, the rate of new infections in young women between the ages of 15 and 24 remains staggeringly high, even though it has reduced considerably –the number of young females aged 15-24 years living with HIV has decreased from 870,000 [810,000 – 1,100,000] in 2005 to 710,000 [660,000 – 860,000] in 2012. Numbers always confuse the picture but if you put faces to the numbers, you get the picture. By contrast, their male peers HIV infection rate remains considerably lower but that of the older men (and we are talking just 5 -8 years older) is higher.

And while we have known all along that women and girls still face the higher risk of HIV infection—and that violence, specifically sexual violence, fuels the epidemic in women and girls, our actions are cause for concern. Sexual violence is both a cause and a consequence of women’s increased vulnerability to HIV. Violence limits women’s ability to engage in HIV preventive habits and when girls and women are abused at an early age they are likely to engage in behaviour that places them at greater risk for HIV. In addition, the stigma of being HIV positive and being a victim of violence diminishes self-esteem and quality of life.

This is not to say that sexual violence does not happen with boys and men…it does. And so the case for handling the problem cuts across both genders even though we know the scope of the problem is much more in females

In many of our societies, women and girls face unequal opportunities, discrimination, and human rights violations. Now everyone knows that gender equality is enshrined as a fundamental right in the South African Constitution. The country boasts a range of laws and policies which promote gender equality and protect the rights of all citizens especially women and girls against all forms of violence. These include the Domestic Violence Act; Sexual Offences Act; etc. 65 at the last count! And while laws may exist in the books to protect our rights and give us greater opportunities, these rights aren’t always fulfilled or supported by society and its leaders—including faith leaders.

So while I am talking about sexual violence and its link with HIV, I think I need to define what is meant by sexual violence.

Sexual violence is any kind of violence enacted through sexual means or targeting the sexuality of another, regardless of age and gender.

It includes penetration of the vagina or anus with any foreign object, forced vaginal, anal or oral sex, the cutting or mutilation of sexual parts, forced marriage/cohabitation, forced impregnation, forced abortion, forced sterilization, sexual humiliation, medical experimentation on a person’s sexual and reproductive organs, forced prostitution, coercive sex, trafficking in men/women, and pornography.

This broad definition I think is very important, to ensure that all sexual violence survivors get the support they need, but also so that all sexually violent practices are addressed for what it is…….namely sexual violence.

So I want to use a few minutes this evening to propose that the church is systematically weak / absent in responding to the reality of sexual violence, both in a preventative sense and in after-care. And as such congregations are actively creating a context in which sexual violence survivors are stigmatised and discriminated against, and in which sexually violent practices are condoned.

It is unacceptable that South Africa has the largest prevalence of sexual violence in the whole world. An estimated 55 000 rapes of women and girls are reported to the police every year. This is estimated to be nine times lower than the actual number - we know from the police statistics that rape and other sexual offences are largely under reported.

You may have heard or read of a 2010 study by the Medical Research Council of South Africa , which reported that one in three men interviewed in Gauteng Province admitted to having raped a woman, while a similar study in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape reported one in every four men admitting to at least one rape.

In addition, a study done based on survivors accessing help at Government Thuthuzela rape survivor centres across South Africa points out that South African children between the ages of 12 and 17 are more likely to be raped than South Africans of any other age. In the three years that were reviewed during the study, more than 34 000 survivors visited these centres. While these statistics are limited in scope and do not paint a picture of the entire situation across South Africa, it says a lot about what is happening in South Africa to date.

So what exactly has been done by so many people and institutions in the country?

If we were to do an audit of response – as was highlighted in the country UN HLM report – an impressive list would follow. The South African response to rape and sexual violence is and continues to be determined and strong. Government has put in place laws, policies and guidelines. Civil society organisations – particularly women’s advocacy groups; men’s organisations; human rights advocates, work tirelessly to ensure women’s rights are protected and where necessary legal redress is afforded…… …..but curiously, it doesn’t seem to be gelling.

3 weeks ago, I was in Eastern Cape, attending a traditional ceremony – they were at the end of a month’s workshops where they had been teaching their adolescent girls the values of looking after themselves and one key area was on the promotion of abstinence. During this process, it came to light that one of the teenage girls was being repeatedly raped by her uncle, in the homestead.

As many survivors do, she and her mother turned to her church for support, but found it lacking in many ways. For one, both felt that they were being blamed for the actions of the uncle – the same sentiments followed; at the police and in court. There are many such examples. A question often asked by victims of sexual violence – who do we turn to? Do I turn to my priest? Would he be receptive if I turned to him for support? How will he react when he hears the rapist is my husband? Those who have been sexually assaulted suffer in silence due to the stigma associated with the crime.

There is no doubt that it takes more than prayer to heal and empower girls and women who have endured sexual violence—to transform them from victims to survivors. It takes compassionate leadership that reaches beyond scripture and traditional rites and teachings.

While the church can be a rock-solid source of unmoving strength to a community, it must also be able to respond sensitively to the needs of those who have been hurt. For example, when the church advocates for strong families, can it appreciate that the danger to women and girls often lurks inside their own homes? Do care, support and justice extend to women who sell sex or use drugs or who are disabled or boys and men who have been sexually assaulted? Or who are transgendered? Yes. There should be no line that distinguishes who deserves and who does not.

Women and girls, boys and men, who have been victims of violence need many things: To have their dignity restored and to be protected from stigma and shame. To ensure their attackers are brought to justice. To have access to psychological and medical care, including sexual and reproductive health. And ultimately, to be empowered as leaders in achieving full equity in their worlds.

But that is really looking at the care component of sexual violence, which I propose must be stepped up.

But what about prevention? Minister Motsoaledi is always talking about ‘Prevention being better than cure’.

Most of you in this room are probably parents. Maybe this is an assumption but if you are not then think of the youth groups or training or conversations that you have had so far, with your congregations.

Most of what I have described are the responses that are expected of women and girls. How fair is it that the expectation is laid squarely at their feet?

How many of you have had that “intimate” conversation with your son, your nephew, your brother, your uncle or even with some of your parishioners? The one where you said, "I love you and I need you to know that no matter how a woman dresses or acts, it is not an invitation to cat call, taunt, harass or assault her"?

Or when you told your son or parishioner, "A woman's virginity isn't a prize and sleeping with a woman doesn't earn you a point"?

How about the heart-to-heart where you lovingly conferred the legal knowledge that “a woman doesn't have to be fighting you and you don't have to be pinning her down for it to be RAPE. Intoxication means she can't legally consent, NOT that she's an easy score."

Or maybe you recall sharing this one "Your sexual experiences don't dictate your worth just like a woman's sexual experiences don't dictate hers."

Last but not least, do you remember calling your son or parishioner out when you discovered he was using a ‘four-letter’ word liberally? Or when you overheard him talking about some girl from school or even church as if she were more of a conquest than a person?  

I want you to consider these conversations and then ask yourself why you may not remember them. The likely reason is because you didn't have them. In fact, most parents, most religious leaders, haven't had them.

By contrast, here are some conversations you might have a better recollection of. I'll give you a telling hint: they probably weren't with your son or your nephew or your male parishioner.

"Be careful with the way you act and the way you dress -- it's easy to get a bad reputation."

"That's just the way boys are -- you can't give them any excuse to behave that way towards you."

"You need to be safe! When you dress that way, some people read it as an invitation."

"Never go out alone, never walk alone at night and never drink from a glass that you haven’t poured yourself."

These are conversations often had by loving parents like you, like me. They come from a place of care, they come from a place of concern but most notably they come from a place of upside-down, cultural indoctrination that is hurting, stifling and punishing young women and girls.

The cultural indoctrination that I'm speaking of goes something like this: It is a young woman's responsibility, and girl, to safeguard herself from rape, assault, harassment, stalking and abuse because boys will be boys, men will be men and some of them just can't help themselves.

When I told my sister this she said, that I am being unfair. But that doesn't change the fact that it's true. She said “I can't change the fact that there are creepy men out there behaving badly. I have to help my daughter protect herself."

So let's take a quick look at these "creepy men." Who are they, really? Who are the creepy men that are making it unsafe for your daughter, your wife, your sister, to go solo to the shops, even to a party on campus? Who are the creepy men that are cat-calling her or intimidating her with their words? Who are the creepy men that are stalking her? Harassing her? Attacking her?

Who are these "creepy men" and where did they come from AND who raised them?

We have more than enough data to conclude that the majority of perpetrators aren't "others," they are peers and classmates and ex-boyfriends and friends and more importantly for this audience, members of your congregations.

They are young or old men that your daughter, sister, wife, mother probably knows and interacts with. You cannot build a wall up around your daughter, sister, wife, mother to keep these men from entering her world -- they are already inside it.

As for who raised them? The answer, unfortunately, is me, you; its US.

I don't expect you to welcome what I am saying. I doubt many of you will even accept it. I want you to know that I'm not saying all boys and men are rapists or disrespectful of women -- and I'm certainly not saying that all boys and men are just wired that way.

What I am saying is this: we live in a culture that puts victims on trial with questions like, "well, what were you wearing?" and "how much did you drink?"

We live in a culture where a mother or father, concerned about raising sons who "act honourably", holds young women accountable for the way young men objectify them. We live in a culture where a judge hands down a 30-day sentence to a rapist because his 14-year-old victim was "older than her chronological age." “she looked older than her age”…..We live in a culture that relegates not getting raped to women and girls instead of expecting and demanding boys and men to be responsible for not raping. I, personally, have heard that in my church and have challenged my priest.

What I am saying is that we reap what we sow. And because of the proximity that the church has to its people, I wonder if we have had the “don’t rape” conversation with our sons, our nephews, our youth groups, our men’s clubs, our seminary students in the training colleges, ourselves……that this is wrong!

When you have the "avoid getting raped" conversation with your daughter, your sister, your aunt, it is difficult, as you don't want to imagine her as a victim.

The idea of having the "don't rape" conversation with your son, your nephew, your brother, your uncle, your male congregation is more difficult as you don't ever want to imagine him as a perpetrator.

But I would like to suggest that you do it anyway.

Do it because so many parents, guardians have thought they didn't need to and so many people have suffered because of it. See the proportion of men in prisons! I tried to get actual numbers of incarcerated males in prison in South Africa but had difficulty.

Do it because you love your son, your nephew, your brother, your uncle, your father and want him to have a bright future.

Do it because not doing it is irresponsible.  

Do it for your daughter or for your nieces or for young women in general because while this particular conversation might be terrifying, the much more terrifying reality is young girls and women continue to be taught to live in fear of men.

That is really what you're doing when you have the "don't get raped" conversation with your daughter. You are telling her to always be suspicious; you are telling her to spend her life looking over her shoulder; you are telling her that any man is a potential predator.

When I first had this conversation with the Archbishop, he asked me, but what is it that you really want to see? I responded that I want to wake up every morning, feeling safe, not having to look over my shoulder wondering which man is looking at me and why. I wanted to be in a place I felt safe and happy – for all of the time, not for most of the time.

You may feel at this stage….well, what she says may be true. And you're not wrong.

But sexual violence is pervasive despite the conversations many of you, many parents, have had with their daughters. What is true is that the "don't get raped" angle is not a successful strategy for curbing this pandemic. In fact, it is counter-productive as it perpetuates a culture where men don't feel the need to take responsibility.

Fortunately, we have the tools to curb these crimes. And I strongly believe that you can help to protect your daughter and other women and girls like her.

And you can do it from so many places - your living room, your pulpit, your youth groups, your youth camps, your prayer meetings, your training seminaries.

All you have to do is talk……..

Please….do speak out!

And do join the Archbishop on the 25th November 2013 at St Albans Cathedral, Pretoria where he will launch the “We Will Speak Out” campaign.

I thank you for listening and God bless you!

References:

www.unaids.org

Tearfund UK
South African Police Service crime report, 2012
Unit for Religion and Development Research (URDR), Stellenbosch University
“Conversations” Carina Kolodny

Contact:

Catherine Sozi: sozic@unaids.org

Nkhensani Mathabathe: mathabathen@unaids.org

(012) 354 8490 (UNAIDS South Africa)

Christian HIV Statements and Policies

You can find a wide selection of statements and policies on HIV from a variety of church groups, networks and denominations here.

If you know of any others, please let me know.

Please note that, CARIS, CABSA or our partners does not necessarily support all these statements.

Denominations and Faith Traditions

Anglican Churches and Networks

 

Presiding Bishop Statement for the International AIDS Conference 2012. 7/12

This is a statement made by the Presiding Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church at the International AIDS Conference 2012

Download this statement here (PDF, 72.58KB, 1 pg)

Statement from the Anglican Bishops in Southern African on the Imprisonment of Stephen Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga. 27/5/10

We, the Bishops of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa call upon the Government of South Africa to seek the release of Stephen Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga

27 May 2010

We, the Bishops of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa call upon the Government of South Africa to seek the release of Stephen Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who were recently sentenced in Malawi to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour, after they shared in a traditional ceremony of engagement.

As we have previously stated, though there is a breadth of theological views among us on matters of human sexuality, we are united in opposing the criminalisation of homosexual people. We see the sentence that has been handed down to these two individuals as a gross violation of human rights and we therefore strongly condemn such sentences and behaviour towards other human beings. We emphasize the teachings of the Scriptures that all human beings are created in the image of God and therefore must be treated with respect and accorded human dignity.

These principles are at the heart of South Africa's own Constitution, whose provisions we see as setting an example for the world to follow. We therefore call on our President and Government to pursue the same values and standards for the upholding of human well-being, dignity and respect, in our external relations; to engage in dialogue with their counterparts on the rights of minorities; and to oppose any measures which demean and oppress individuals, communities, or groups of people. In particular we call on our President and Government to lobby the Government of Malawi at every level to uphold the commitment it shares through the SADC treaty to promote human rights (Article 4). We urge them to press for the swift release of these two individuals, who have committed no act of violence or harm against anyone; for the quashing of the sentence against them; and for the repeal of this repressive legislation.

More generally, we wish to reiterate our deep concern at the violent language used against the gay community across Sub-Saharan Africa, and at the increased legal action being taken against gay individuals, communities and organisations. Even in South Africa we are aware of instances of violence against the gay and lesbian community. We therefore appeal to law-makers everywhere to defend the rights of these minorities.

As Bishops we believe that it is immoral to permit or support oppression of, or discrimination against, people on the grounds of their sexual orientation, and contrary to the teaching of the gospel; particularly Jesus’ command that we should love one another as he has loved us, without distinction (John 13:34-35). We commit ourselves to teach, preach and act against any laws that undermine human dignity and oppress any and all minorities, even as we call for Christians and all people to uphold the standards of holiness of life.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town

Inquiries: on 021- 763-1320 (office hours)

World AIDS Day Statement 2006 - SECAM

Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM)
GREETING FOR WORLD AIDS DAY 2006
To all our Brothers and Sisters of the Catholic Church in Africa and Madagascar, to all men and women of good will, and especially to all who are infected by HIV or affected by AIDS: greetings and best wishes to you all on World AIDS Day 2006. This year's theme is "Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise!" As we commemorate this day, we reflect on the deeper fidelity needed to reverse the pandemic.
We are greatly alarmed by the magnitude of HIV and AIDS, the conditions of susceptibility to infection and illness, its spread and its consequences. The statistics alone tell a devastating story. According to this year's UNAIDS report, 24.5 million people out of a total population of 774 million in sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV and AIDS. Nearly all the countries of the sub-continent have a rate of infection well above one percent, the epidemic threshold, and the average rate among adults aged 15-49 is 6.1%.
Despite good educational efforts, many people remain ignorant about AIDS or still deny it. Despite greater availability of treatment, more people are dying. And despite the services offered, many infected and ill people are still crushed under the most desperate of circumstances.
Echoing Pope Benedict XVI's teaching this year, we Catholic Bishops of Africa encourage everyone to consider the deeper causes of the pandemic. It is not just medical. A public health approach is necessary but insufficient. As the Church's mission is to address the whole person in all dimensions of life, we feel the special responsibility to revitalise the strong moral values in our societies. That is what will lead to a true, sustainable solution to AIDS in Africa.
Social issues and the Gospel are inseparable. The recent Popes have been insisting on this for at least 125 years. When one offers people only knowledge, ability, technical competence and tools, this brings them too little. This has been stressed again by our Pope, Benedict XVI, when he said recently:
"The God of Jesus Christ must be known, believed in and loved. Hearts must be converted if progress is to be made on social issues and reconciliation is to begin, if AIDS is to be combated by realistically facing its deeper causes and if the sick are to be given the loving care they need."
The attention of the global community has been adequately drawn in recent years to the tragedy of the AIDS pandemic. We have been greatly encouraged by the generous commitments made to provide needed resources for the battle against this dreaded killer. We urge those who have made such promises to remember the strong statement of the late Pope John Paul II that "Promises made to the poor are a debt that must be paid." Commitments must be honoured in good time. Promises must be kept promptly, if we are ever to achieve any reasonable success in the struggle. The theme for this year's World AIDS Day is therefore very pertinent: "Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise!"
On our part, within the means available to us, we will continue to offer care which is competent, loving and holistic. We will educate and preach, tirelessly. We will continue to challenge our fellow-Africans of every age and condition to exercise personal and communal responsibility. We will continue to invite especially our leaders, in the words of the Holy Father, to "a shared commitment to justice and love." And we will continue to welcome the generous and respectful assistance of governments, organizations, religious bodies and individual benefactors.
May our Holy Mother Mary, Queen of Africa and Health of the Sick, intercede for us at the throne of grace.
Amen.
+ John ONAIYEKAN
Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria
President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM)
World AIDS Day, 1 December 2006

SECAM Pastoral Message. 01/12/03

Pastoral Message issued by SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar) on 1 December 2003 in Dakar.

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Anglican Church. Isiseko Sokomeleza – “Building a Foundation 4/2003

Anglican Church in Southern Africa strategy Isiseko Sokomeleza – “Building a Foundation” April 2003.

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Statement from AIDS Board of the Council of Anglican Provinces . 22/08/02

Statement from AIDS Board of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa Board Meeting. Nairobi, Kenya, 19-22 August 2002.

We have concluded our second meeting of the AIDS Board of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAP A). We have re-committed ourselves to the vision "of a Generation without AIDS", stated this time last year at the first All Africa Anglican Conference on HIV / AIDS at Boksburg.  

Worldwide Communion says "AIDS is not punishment from God"

Our Church is a community of compassion and love. At a time when the African continent is being devastated by the HIV pandemic, where some 30 million have already been infected, our Anglican Communion has stated: "AIDS is not a punishment from God."

We affirm the words of the Primates from the across the world-wide Anglican Communion who also said, "We have a solemn duty to speak a word to the world o/the scale of this crisis." In that spirit, we are committed to enlisting all sectors of society and the faith communities of Africa in a "Partnership for Life". 

International Debt Relief and access to care

In just a few days, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) will be gathering in my home country of South Africa. We are deeply distressed that the African continent is simultaneously being ravaged AIDS. 

We call upon the developed world to free us of the life-threatening burden of international debt, indebtedness, I might add, that many of our present governments did not incur. We know that debt forgiveness in sub-Saharan Africa, alone, could release more than $10 billion toward alleviating the pain and suffering of HIV/AIDS, which the United Nations says is needed in Africa today. 

African conflicts fuel the AIDS pandemic

Wars, social and political instability, and conflict continue to plague us, as well. These struggles fuel the HIV / AIDS Pandemic. Even though peace is breaking out across Africa, there is still a long way to go to bring a level of peace and domestic tranquility. Food security, physical security, and commitment to public health and well-being are crucial. 

We call on the governments of Africa that created the new African Union and NEPAD, to collaborate in making the eradication of HIV/AIDS a top priority. It is clear that there needs to be appropriate incentive schemes and strategies in the public and private sectors to make these efforts successful. We, in the faith-based communities, offer our collaboration and support so that Africa can save her children and guard her future. Our nations must move from rhetoric about the future to responsibility for today. 

All African framework upheld

Over the course of these days we have affirmed the 6-fold call to responsibility for all of our churches. They are: Leadership, Care, Prevention, Counseling, Pastoral Care and Death and Dying. To this end, we are committed to ministering in and among all people. 

Prevention saves lives

We are committed to teaching our children and their parents life-preserving skills to inhibit the virus that causes AIDS. The time for preparation for sexual maturity is well before adolescence and the onset of sexual activity. Our energies must focus on our daughters and sons at an early age. While we know that information alone cannot save lives, information and action can.  

Knowing one's status is the first step

It is crucial for every person to know his/her HIV infection. Knowing one's status is the best way we can make informed and appropriate decisions about sexual behaviour and personal commitments. We call on our faith communities to ensure that Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) is available to all people, including those in the Church. 

Specific behaviours can save lives

We also know that there are some behaviours that will significantly reduce risk. These include:

  • abstinence before marriage;

  • fidelity and faithfulness within marriage;

  • delay the beginning of sexual activity for those who cannot remain abstinent, and I:J correct use of condoms, particularly for those couples in which one is HIV+ and the other is HIV-.  

We know that condoms can save lives and prevent the spread of the virus. The morality of condoms is about preserving life. To sentence a person to death because of an error of judgment about sexual activity is not the way to save lives. We are human; we make mistakes, and live in a fallen world. We must ask forgiveness and commit ourselves to responsible sexual behaviour. These behaviours will go a long way in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. 

Stigma is a sin!

Stigma is the silent killer decimating our continent and is spreading disease. We call for an end to stigma and discrimination against those who are HIV + and their families. Our sisters and brothers living with AIDS experience silence and rejection. Silence feeds denial and shame. This, too, is stigma. We know the Church has been complicit in silence. 

That silence is ended! Our Church has declared stigma as a sin before God and Human kind. We will uphold the dignity and worth of all people as Children of God, especially those living with AIDS. Therefore each Province is being asked to implement a Pastoral Plan for eradicating stigma as soon a possible. 

Saving our children

Every minute of every day a child dies from the effects of AIDS. Every hour 400 teenagers become HIV-infected. AIDS is stealing our future. Therefore, we call on our churches to come together in partnership with all sectors of society, to find creative and life-giving ways to save our children, and enhance the quality of their lives-particularly those orphaned by AIDS! 

Especially, we must protect those who are not HIV+ from ever becoming so. Tragically, many of our children must be protected from family members who use them as sexual objects. There is no culture on earth that can defend the abuse of children as anything other than sinful. As the people of God, we are committed to life. We are committed to saving our children. 

AIDS-friendly churches support change

Our Church is not in the business of judgment. Judgment belongs to God! Ours is a loving God. As the Church, we are called to be mirrors of God's mercy and heralds of God's compassion. Churches are places of love, acceptance and hope. 

To that end our churches must be "AIDS Friendly", that is, places of hope where people living with HIV/AIDS can experience care, comfort and support. Additionally, it is critical that we foster the development of support groups to continue to uphold those caught in the grip of this pandemic. 

Informed leadership is a way forward

Leadership, to be informed and effective, must have the experience of what it means to be living with AIDS. Therefore, we call upon our brothers and sisters in faith to form a personal, one-on-one, relationship with a person living with HIV / AIDS. We must remember that "No one should care alone and No one should die alone. 

With regard to the pandemic and its impact on our lives, I want to say that across the Anglican Communion in Africa, our Church has moved forward. For example:

  • Uganda, the church is leading the way in ending discrimination and stigma, people with HIV / AIDS are welcomed in Church
  • Nigeria, we are sensitizing our clergy and Bishops
  • Kenya, AIDS awareness education and programming is incorporated into development programmes
  • Tanzania, the Church has openly discussed the efficacy of condom use and endorsed such use in order to save lives
  • Ghana is providing AIDS awareness education for the clergy and peer education for youth
  • In the Province of the Indian Ocean, parents and youth are talking about AIDS together in roundtable discussions hosted by the Church
  • Rwanda, the church is developing Family-Focused Ministries which work to support behavioural change for all ages
  • Central Africa, HIV / AIDS is included in the theological curriculum for the preparation of pastors for ministry
  • Across Africa, the thousands and thousands of volunteers in our women's organisations are providing compassion and support for those who sick and dying from the effects of AIDS.  

In closing, ours is a vision of hope. Our way of operating is through strategic partnerships and collaboration. Our Call is for a Generation without AIDS.

Church of the Province of Southern Africa Primates Statement. April 2002

Church of the Province of Southern Africa -

The Primates of the Anglican Communion, meeting in Alexandria, Egypt on 3rd February, 2009, heard first hand reports of the situation in Zimbabwe, and note with horror the appalling difficulties of the people of this nation under the current regime.

We give thanks to God for the faithful witness of the Christians of Zimbabwe during this time of pain and suffering, especially those who are being denied access to their churches. We wish to assure them of our love, support and prayers as they face gross violation of human rights, hunger and loss of life as well as the scourge of a cholera epidemic, all due directly to the deteriorating socio-political and economic situation in Zimbabwe. 

It is a matter of grave concern that there is an apparent breakdown of the rule of law within the country, and that the democratic process is being undermined, as shown in the flagrant disregard of the outcome of the democratic elections of March 31st 2008, so that Mr Robert Mugabe illegitimately holds on to power. Even the recent political situation of power sharing, brokered by SADC, may not be long lasting and simply further entrench Mr Mugabe’s regime. There appears to be a total disregard for life, consistently demonstrated by Mr Mugabe through systematic kidnap, torture and the killing of Zimbabwean people. The economy of Zimbabwe has collapsed, as evidenced by the use of foreign currencies in an independent state.

We therefore call upon President Robert Mugabe to respect the outcome of the elections of 2008 and to step down. We call for the implementation of the rule of law and the restoration of democratic processes.

We request that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chair of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, in consultation with the Church of the Province of Central Africa, commission a Representative to go to Zimbabwe to exercise a ministry of presence and to show solidarity with the Zimbabwean people. We also request the President of the All Africa Conference of Churches and the Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa to facilitate a meeting with the African Union president and other African political leaders (especially those of SADC) to highlight the plight of the Zimbabwean peoples.

We call upon parishes throughout the Anglican Communion to assist the Anglican Communion Office, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Office and the Anglican Observer to the United Nations in addressing the humanitarian crisis by giving aid through such mechanisms as the Archbishop of Canterbury is able to designate, and asking that Lambeth Palace facilitate processes by which food and other material aid for Zimbabwe can be distributed through the dioceses of the Church of the Province of Central Africa. 

We urge the Churches of the Anglican Communion to join with the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in observing Wednesday 25th February 2009, Ash Wednesday, as a day of prayer and solidarity with the Zimbabwean people.

As representatives of the Anglican Communion, we reiterate that we do not recognise the status of Bishop Nolbert Kunonga and Bishop Elson Jakazi as bishops within the Anglican Communion, and call for the full restoration of Anglican property within Zimbabwe to the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

We affirm the initiative of the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist (ACSA) in collaboration with Lambeth Palace, the Anglican Communion Office and the Church of the Province of Central Africa in establishing a chaplaincy along the Zimbabwe-South Africa border for the pastoral care of the many refugees, and call upon the Anglican Communion to support this work.

Statement on HIV/AIDS for World AIDS Day 2006 (Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) 01/12/06

Friday 01 December 2006

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams has warned of the alarming impact of the AIDS/HIV pandemic and its growing potential effect on women and young people. In a message issued to mark World AIDS Day [1st December 2006] Dr Williams also paid tribute to development work by churches in the face of the effects of the disease.
The full message is below:
As Christians we pray this day in the light of a global disaster, the momentum of which has built for 25 years. Since the first appearance of the pandemic an estimated 65 million people have been infected with HIV, of whom 25 million have died. In 2005 alone an estimated 4.1 million people became infected with HIV and an estimated 2.8 million people have died of AIDS related illnesses. This pandemic has reached alarming proportions, affecting and infecting many who have not the knowledge or the personal autonomy to avoid transmission. It is now women and young people who face the highest rates of infection; the most vulnerable who bear the heaviest burden. 
No Church has found it easy to confront the realities of this HIV crisis. The cultural and social context of the spread of this disease has challenged us to face some uncomfortable realities of sexual behaviour. We have struggled to balance the moral tensions inherent in preventing disease whilst maintaining sexual discipline. Anglicans and other faith communities are however working tirelessly to meet the needs of the dying and to organize themselves to roll back the advance of this disease. As Christian disciples we recognize in God a self-offering in the face of suffering. We are thus compelled to address our responsibility to do what we can to treat the sick and to educate ourselves and others, so as to avoid further spread of the infection. 
The disease is not stopped by our best intentions or even by marriage. Each person must take responsibility for knowing their HIV status and making sure that others who may be affected also know their status. Such honesty in relationships is a witness to the radical and self-giving love, which is daily required of us. 
It is too easy to assume that HIV is something that infects someone else and not us. That is the first step that leads to stigma. I pay tribute to those Church leaders who have courageously brought their HIV+ status to the attention of their communities and the public and those church leaders who support them. They have confronted us with a reminder of the scale of infection and overturned some of the myths that surround the transmission of the virus. Christ welcomes all to his embrace. We must banish any stigma that keeps us at a distance.
I stand with all the Archbishops of our Communion in offering what we can to create a generation free from HIV and AIDS. 

Anglicans are working hard to develop further our organisational capacity so that effective projects can be identified and funded. I  call upon the Global Fund and other donors to recognise the enormous contribution that could be made in fighting this pandemic by working in better partnership with us. We are currently seeking opportunities for such global partnership with our ecumenical partners. In March 2007 representatives from throughout the Communion will gather in South Africa to further deliberate on our commitment and capacity to development the fight against the spread of HIV. If the international community is to fulfil its commitments to reversing the spread of HIV and treating those with AIDS, then the Anglican Church will continue to extend itself to meet this challenge as an integral part of it. http://www.archbishopofyork.org/581?q=AIDS

Catholic Church and Networks

Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa Call for “More Attention for Psychological and Spiritual Treatment of AIDS Orphans”

A Message of Hope from the Catholic Bishops to the People of Africa/South Africa
5 September 2006
Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa call for “more attention for psychological and spiritual treatment of AIDS orphans”
Cape Town (Agenzia Fides) - During their recent Plenary Assembly in August the Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa voiced deep concern for the situation of AIDS orphans. “It is not only a questions of funds” the Bishops said. “These orphans need not only food but also psychological and pastoral care, a healing process of the whole person.” It is necessary to train operators in psychology and social sciences. “At the political level there is a lot of talk but little action” the Bishops denounced. The local Catholic Church has launched a programme to supply anti-retroviral drugs to people affected by the HIV virus and to provide spiritual and pastoral assistance for HIV/AIDS patents. These efforts have been internationally recognised. In fact the Office of AIDS of the Southern African Bishops Conference (SACBC) is the subject of a study by the United Nations’ AIDS prevention programme.
The SACBC is convinced that only proper education can lead to effective prevention. It complains that public institutions choose the way method of distributing preservatives instead of supplying proper education on human sexuality and AIDS prevention. During their Plenary the Bishops approved a pastoral statement explaining the incompatibility of the Catholic faith with the cult of ancestors of Traditional African Religion, ‘Ancestor Religion and the Christian Faith’ of which Fides published several excepts (see Fides 30/8/2006). (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 5/9/2006 righe 23 parole 242)
Italian:

“Maggiore attenzione alla cura anche psicologica e spirituale degli orfani dell’AIDS” sottolineano i Vescovi dell’Africa Australe
Città del Capo (Agenzia Fides) - I Vescovi dell’Africa Australe, durante la loro Assemblea Plenaria di agosto, hanno espressopreoccupazione per la situazione degli orfani provocati dall’AIDS. “Non è solo una questione di fondi” affermano i Vescovi. “Gliorfani hanno bisogno non solo di cibo ma anche di attenzione psicologica e pastorale, un processo di cura che comprende l’interapersona.” C’è bisogno di operatori formati in psicologia e in scienze sociali. “Si fa un gran parlare soprattutto a livello politico,ma non c’è molta azione” denunciano i Vescovi. La Chiesa cattolica ha avviato un progetto per fornire farmaci antiretrovirali allepersone affette dal virus HIV, e per offrire un aiuto spirituale e pastorale ai malati. Questi sforzi hanno ricevuto un riconoscimentointernazionale. Infatti l’ufficio AIDS della Conferenza Episcopale dell’Africa Australe (SACBC) è oggetto di uno studio delleNazioni Unite sull’AIDS.
La SACBC è convinta che solo una corretta educazione possa portare ad un’efficace prevenzione e lamenta che le istituzioni pubbliche scelgono la facile strada della distribuzione dei preservativi invece di fornire una reale educazione alla sessualità e alla prevenzione. Nel corso della Plenaria, i Vescovi hanno approvato una Lettera pastorale per spiegare l’impossibilità di conciliare la fede cattolica con il culto degli antenati secondo la religione tradizionale africana, di cui Fides ha pubblicato ampi stralci(vedi Fides 30/8/2006). (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 5/9/2006 righe 23 parole 242)

Vatican Calls in HIV/AIDS Experts Amid Condom Flap. 27/5/11

The meeting Friday and Saturday won't call into question traditional church teaching opposing artificial contraception.

Associated Press

By Nicole Winfield
27 May 2011

Vatican City — The Vatican has invited AIDS experts from around the world to a two-day symposium on preventing HIV and caring for people with the virus, just months after the pope made international headlines with his comments about condoms and AIDS.

Organizers insist the meeting Friday and Saturday won't call into question traditional church teaching opposing artificial contraception. In the run-up to the conference, the Vatican's newspaper has run a series of articles reinforcing the church's position that abstinence and fidelity in marriage are the best ways to curb HIV.

Yet Pope Benedict XVI's comments last year about condom use in prostitutes with HIV seem to have removed a Vatican taboo that had all but ruled out public discussion of whether condoms were even effective in reducing HIV transmission.

Some of the speakers at the conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers forcefully advocate condom use to prevent HIV's spread: Among them is Dr. Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, the U.N. agency which maintains that condoms are an "integral and essential" part of prevention programs, which the U.N. says should also include education about delaying the start of sexual activity, limiting sexual partners and marital fidelity.

In a book interview last November, Benedict said condoms were never a moral solution to fighting AIDS. But he said someone, such as a male prostitute, who uses a condom to prevent HIV transmission might be showing a first sign of a more moral and responsible sexuality because he is looking out for the welfare of another person.

The comments were significant. While there had never been an official Vatican policy about condoms and HIV, some Vatican officials had previously insisted that condoms not only don't help fight HIV transmission but make it worse because they gave users a false sense of security. Some claimed the HIV virus could easily pass through the condom's latex barrier.

Benedict himself drew the wrath of UNAIDS and several European countries when, en route to Africa in 2009, he told reporters that the AIDS problem couldn't be resolved by distributing condoms. "On the contrary, it increases the problem," he said then.

The comments and the Catholic Church's overall opposition to condoms as contraception have drawn fierce criticism, particularly in Africa where an estimated 22.4 million people are infected with HIV, two-thirds of the global total.

Benedict's revised comments in the book "Light of the World," however, drew near-universal praise even if they weren't completely understood.

Was he justifying condom use in a break with church doctrine? Progressive Catholics argued he was; conservative Catholics insisted he wasn't. The Vatican issued three different clarifications before finally concluding his comments were in full conformity with church doctrine.

Yet with the small opening Benedict made — it was the first time a pope had implicitly acknowledged that condoms could actually help fight the spread of HIV — the Vatican debate seems to have changed ever so slightly.

This week the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano ran an article speaking about a "certain efficiency" that condoms can bring in reducing transmission. The moral theologian Juan Jose Perez-Soba stressed, however, that condom's aren't the best option and that campaigns presenting them as such are gravely deficient without stressing marital fidelity and abstinence.

Dr. Edward Green, the former director of the AIDS prevention research project at Harvard University, says empirical evidence is increasingly showing that condoms aren't the solution, at least in Africa where heterosexual sex among multiple partners in regular, concurrent relationships is largely to blame for HIV's spread. It's a different scenario than in Thailand, for example, where high-risk sex workers have driven the spread of the virus.

"I'm not anti-condom," Green said in an interview ahead of his speech Saturday to the conference. "They should be accessible, affordable, free. Just don't bet the house and farm on it."

What works in Africa, Green says, is male circumcision and reducing the number of sexual partners — in other words, changing the sexual behavior that fuels HIV's spread, a message the Vatican and other faith-based groups have long preached.

"I've taken a lot of flack from my family planning colleagues, many of whom saw me as a traitor and thought I'd undergone a religious conversion," said Green, who professes to belong to no particular church. He insists his conclusions are based on "empiricism about what works and what I know about Africa."

Monsignor Kevin Dowling, bishop of Rustenburg, South Africa, knows Africa too though he is not speaking at the conference. Since 1997 he has run a community-based HIV program that provides home-care nurses, anti-retroviral clinics, a hospice and program for orphans to cope with the hundreds of thousands of HIV-positive people of the region. And he counsels condom use.

The snapshot that he paints is chilling: The area is home to large platinum mines that attract men from around the region to work for months at a time away from their families, and women who come looking for work. Desperately poor, the women are forced to engage in what Dowling calls "survival sex" — to pay for food and shelter since there are no other jobs.

"What am I to say to her? That the only 100% sure way of ensuring that you will not become infected is to abstain from sex before marriage, and remain faithful to a single partner in a stable marriage for the rest of your life?" Dowling said in an email. "Such 'choices' are totally, but totally irrelevant to such people."

He says that years of sitting with women in their shacks as they or their children die had led him to take the nuanced position that "in certain circumstances, the use of a condom is allowable not as a contraceptive but to prevent disease," he said. "We do not give out condoms, but people are fully informed about prevention methods and helped to make informed decisions about how they can protect themselves and, if they themselves are HIV positive, how they can avoid infecting someone else."

Dowling says he has endured "much trouble" for his views, but he says he believes it is fully in line with church teaching since the condom isn't being used as a contraceptive but to prevent disease.

 

Greeting For World Aids Day 2009; Symposium Of Episcopal Conferences Of Africa And Madagascar. 12/09

 To all our Brothers and Sisters of the Catholic Church in Africa and its Islands, to all men and women of good will, and especially to all who are infected by HIV or affected by AIDS: greetings and best wishes to you all on World AIDS Day 2009. The theme this year "Universal Access and Human Rights" challenges discriminatory laws, policies and practices that stand in the way of access for all to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. This fits well within the theme of the II Synod of Bishops for Africa: The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: "You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world."

The Church is second to none in facing HIV in Africa and caring for people infected and affected. Earlier this year, responding to a journalist en route to the continent, Pope Benedict XVI said: "The most efficient, most truly present player in the fight against AIDS is the Catholic Church herself." And we African Bishops know he is right.

Constantly present among millions of Africans who are badly affected by the pandemic, we see how AIDS continues to ravage our populations, even if it is slipping down the agenda of governments, civil society and international organizations. At a time when official concerns about the pandemic are receding, we re-affirm theologically that the Body of Christ has AIDS, and express our pastoral determination as Family of God to provide fitting responses. For our continent is still the worst afflicted.

We plead for sustained support to meet the needs of many. Assistance is as sorely needed as ever. HIV and AIDS have not gone away, despite premature impressions to the contrary. The assumption that treatment is now available to everyone is false. Only a third of those who need treatment get it and, after two years, only 60% are still on treatment; for every two people on treatment, five are newly infected. Globally new HIV infections are still outnumbering those going on treatment and those dying of AIDS. The number of orphans, abused, vulnerable and infected children continues to grow exponentially. Stigma remains a powerful enemy. The Church knows very well the real impact of HIV and of AIDS upon her sons and daughters, and it will be so for decades to come.

Although ART requires a lifelong commitment to staying on the drugs, in sub-Saharan Africa a goodly number of ART patients stop taking their meds within two years because they can't afford the regular transport costs to the hospital or don't have access to sufficient food to make drug adherence possible.

The pandemic gravely compromises development and justice. The global recession and economic downturn have a detrimental impact on our brothers and sisters infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. Climbing prices of food and other basic necessities are hampering progress of treatment, because people cannot afford the food essential to support their medication. Further, increased hunger and desperation are making people resort to sex as a means of survival. So any response that attempts to tackle HIV and AIDS in isolation is doomed to fail.

For the tide to turn, the impact of all contributing factors must be recognised and tackled holistically: wars; fragile or failing states; inequality between men and women; the ravages of climate change and many more. All these make the poor even poorer, more dispossessed, more vulnerable to HIV and, if infected, more likely to develop AIDS.

HIV-AIDS is not just a medical problem and investing in pharmaceutics alone will not work. Foreign governments and UN agencies are now pushing for investment in national healthcare systems in countries of Africa as their strategy for addressing HIV along with malaria and tuberculosis.

With the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, we seriously warn that the problem cannot be overcome by relying exclusively or primarily on the distribution of prophylactics. Only a strategy based on education to individual responsibility in the framework of a moral view of human sexuality, especially through conjugal fidelity, can have a real impact on the prevention of this disease.

The Church's understanding of marriage as the total, reciprocal and exclusive communion of love between a man and a woman prompts the most effective behaviours for preventing the sexual transmission of disease: namely, abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage.

We address ourselves particularly to our youth, in whom we firmly believe. Let no one deceive you into thinking that you cannot control yourself. Abstinence is the best protection. For those who are not married, it is also the only moral course of action. Accordingly, formation of the human person is the true recipe, the key to it all, and we are intent on preparing you to be tomorrow's salt of the earth and light of the world, active, generous and responsible members of society and Church.

SECAM thanks all those who are so generously involved in this difficult apostolate of formation, love and care.

May international Catholic solidarity continue supporting the long-term commitment of the Church in Africa to raise awareness, to accompany the infected and the affected, to form the youth, and to face this great challenge - along with many others - in a spirit of inclusivity, reconciliation, and greater harmony in families, communities, parishes and all dimensions of Church life.

May our Holy Mother Mary, Queen of Africa and Health of the Sick, intercede for us at the throne of grace. Amen.

+ Polycarp Cardinal Pengo
Archbishop of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
President of SECAM

Secam Secretariat, P.O.Box Ka 9156 Airport, Accra, Ghana       

Tel (233.21) 77 88 67/68, Fax (233.21) 77 25 48, Www.Sceam-Secam.Org

World Aids Day, 1 December 2009

 

Pope Benedict XVI World AIDS Day Message during the Recitation of the Angelus, 29 November 2009:

Download the Message:

Pope Benedict XVI [pdf, 138 kb]

Learning to Face AIDS as a Family. Message for World AIDS Day to all the Jesuits of Africa and Madagascar. 2009

Message for World AIDS Day, 1 December 2009
To all the Jesuits of Africa and Madagascar 

Learning to face AIDS as a family
 

Dear companions and friends in the Lord, on this World AIDS Day I invite you to meditate with me on our learning to face AIDS as a family.

When AIDS began to afflict Africa about 25 years ago, few of us reacted well. People who were HIV-positive or suffered from AIDS could easily find themselves condemned, rejected, cast out and treated "as good as dead". How different things must be now, wherever belonging God's family means reacting as Jesus showed us.

Many spiders working together can tie up a lion.

Fifteen years ago the first Synod for Africa enculturated and indeed africanized Vatican II with the inspiring expression Church-Family of God in Africa. The Church has invited her sons and daughters to re-imagine what it means to be Christian as a family community. For the last seven years now, the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) has been enabling our Assistancy to develop ways of facing HIV and AIDS in our works and communities, individually and with our co-workers, as Ignatian family.

It takes more than one stream to fill a river.

We cannot home in on 'the problem' without understanding the context, the rich cluster of complex factors which encircle any human situation. AIDS is a pandemic, together with malaria and tuberculosis, which is decimating African populations and severely damaging their economic and social life. It is not to be looked at as either merely a medical-pharmaceutical problem or solely as an issue of a change in human behaviour. It is truly an issue of integral development and justice, which requires a holistic approach and response by the Church (Synod). So HIV-AIDS, neither most important nor negligible, takes its place amidst the great challenges and inter-related problems facing Africa.

Whoever has seen the sun before you, passes the light of life to you.

Our African family is a seamless community binding the living and the not-yet-born and the living dead who have gone before. So facing AIDS includes the ancestors, and one thing they surely regard is sexuality. Sexuality has always been seen in Africa as morally neutral, neither good nor bad, part of what it means to be human. A comparison is instructive. Fire, if controlled and tamed, is useful in preparing a meal; out of control, it can burn the roof and consume the whole house. Likewise, sexuality needs to be channelled and disciplined so that its life-giving potential is fulfilled and its destructiveness curbed. Both our traditional African cultures and our way of life as Christians give norms for living out one's sexuality for the long-term good of everyone.

That's not how everyone sees it, of course. The Church's understanding of sexuality is often scorned for being rigid, unrealistic or moralistic. Some think that the fire should rage free and untamed, even in the face of AIDS. This can be a seductive message for younger members of our family who are just discovering their sexuality and for older ones, too. But in truth many seek guidance on how to live it in a healthy way. So it is very important for the Church to get her life-affirming message across today to everyone. Abstinence and fidelity are not only the best ways to avoid HIV and tackle AIDS, but are the path to real, personal fulfilment. Honest moral education encourages a healthy approach to relationships and to sexuality based on respect and love for others. In particular, unmarried young people who would like to practice sexual abstinence before marriage - probably a significant majority among Christians and Muslims and even in society as a whole - need the Church to form and care for them pastorally and stand up for them in public.

Fire that is surrounded by elders cannot burn you.

Within our family, couples who are discordant or doubly-infected face a particularly difficult situation. They deserve pastoral support which informs and forms their consciences, so that they might choose what is right, with full responsibility for the greater good of each other, their union and their family (Synod). Jesuit pastors and counsellors should be ready to accompany them sensitively, help them with formation and information, and support them in their fidelity.

Besides sexuality, there are other important causes which fuel the spread of HIV. Thousands of people, for example, are infected because of poverty, hunger, war and forced displacement, domestic violence and the sex trade. Thus, sin wreaks destruction, hurts our brothers and sisters, and weighs heavily on us all. Anyone who wants to understand how HIV-AIDS impact on human life must consider economics, politics, society and culture, as well as the more immediate personal and family issues.

AIDS cuts across all the disciplines which promote social justice in Africa. Many Church programmes, including ours, fight for access to comprehensive care treatment, with testing, medication for opportunistic infections, food and support to earn a living. The aim is to live like a family: to respect the dignity and life of each one, to show solidarity with anyone in need.

One finger can't do all the work.

We should not be afraid of, less still be discouraged, by the enormity of the problems of our continent among which HIV and AIDS. It is part of life and will be for a long time to come. As a great family, we face the challenge confidently. We plead for sustained support to meet the needs of many for assistance. We know that our all-provident Father is at our side. This faith gives us compassion and perseverance.

An army of well organised ants can bring down an elephant.

Like Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the Holy Family, so the Church-Family of God in Africa knows her sons and daughters, their needs, strengths and weaknesses, fears and hopes. She manifests this loving knowledge in her familiar ways of preventing HIV and caring for the sick and for those affected by AIDS, working for reconciliation, justice and peace. With the Synod, JESAM thanks all those who are generously involved in this difficult apostolate of love and care.

Fratern Masawe SJ
JESAM Moderator      

Karen, 1 December 2009

 

Responding to the Challenges of HIV/AIDS in AMECEA Region (AMECEA Plenary Assembly, Catholic Bishops) 11/06/05

Message of the 15th AMECEA Plenary Assembly
CALLED TO BE A GOOD SAMARITAN
(Luke 10:30-37)
Responding to the Challenges of HIV/AIDS in AMECEA Region
1. Introduction
“To all God’s beloved” in AMECEA Countries (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and affiliated members of Somalia and Djibouti): “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rm 1:7-8).
We, the Catholic Bishops of the AMECEA Region, having seen, listened, learned, reflected and prayed about the pastoral challenges of HIV and AIDS within our Region, now share our concerns and thoughts with you through this message. We invite the Clergy, the Religious, the Faithful, governments and non-governmental agencies in Africa and beyond, and all people of good will, to join hands and work side by side with us to stop the plague, which is devastating the peoples of our region. We call upon every Christian and every person of good will to get involved in this struggle and to follow the invitation of Christ, to be a Good Samaritan to everyone who is in need, suffering or afflicted and, especially, to those who are living with HIV/AIDS.
2. Appreciation
Having visited and interacted with the many institutions and communities dealing with HIV/AIDS in Uganda and in our respective countries, we appreciate the impressive efforts made by Episcopal Conferences, Dioceses, Parishes, Congregations and the Faithful in responding generously, often under difficult circumstances, to the challenges of HIV/AIDS.
With the words of Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, we recall “with admiration, the many healthcare workers, chaplains and volunteers who, like Good Samaritans, assist persons with AIDS and care for their relatives. In this regard the service of the thousands of Catholic health-care institutions that go to the help of people in Africa affected by every kind of illness, and especially AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, is invaluable” (Message for the 13th World Day of the Sick, 2005, No. 4)
  • We also appreciate the great efforts being made in HIV/AIDS programmes by governments and other institutions both in encouraging abstinence and fidelity as well as care for people living with HIV/AIDS, which are bearing encouraging results.
  • In a very special way we appreciate the many families and communities which have taken holistic care of their sick members and those still doing so with much love and sacrifice. We also thank the families who are taking care of orphans, widows and widowers, in a manner that is edifying and truly Christian. We encourage all families and communities to emulate these good examples. “I was sick and you visited me” (Mt 25:36).
  • We applaud the efforts made by all medical personnel in the region in treating and caring for people living with HIV/AIDS; and all the counsellors who are giving hope to the sick, as well as medical researchers in both modern and traditional medicines, who are doing their best in the search for a cure.
  • We appreciate the involvement of many conscientious parents, teachers, and religious leaders who take to heart the instruction of children, youth and communities, in good moral behaviour, which is essential to the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS.
3. Reality and Concerns
We are greatly alarmed by the magnitude of HIV/AIDS, its origin, causes, spread and consequences. We have become aware of the many factors that have aggravated the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout Africa. These include: abject poverty, greed and corruption, ignorance and illiteracy, high levels of unemployment, war and the existence of refugees and internally displaced persons, inequality between men and women, immoral behaviour, disrespect of children’s rights, and negative traditional cultural practices. All these factors have greatly increased the spread of HIV/AIDS, giving rise to prejudice, discrimination and stigma.
The consequences are far-reaching and visible in urban and rural areas as witnessed in untold suffering, worsening misery, numerous deaths, which result in countless orphans, widows and widowers. We call on all the People of God to undertake Christ’s mission of protecting life to the full. “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10).
4. Holistic Care for All
The Church in her evangelising mission is called to the demands of the Gospel and to offer pastoral care to people living with HIV/AIDS. However we see a more holistic care as a great need in the context of immense suffering of our people. Holistic care designates complete and integrated response to the needs of a human person ranging from spiritual, physical, psychological, social and material. This care is to be given both to the sick in our communities and those in hospitals including members of the clergy and religious who are living with HIV/AIDS.
5. Solidarity with People Living with HIV/AIDS
We call upon all Christians and people of good will to respect the full dignity and equal rights of all people living with HIV/AIDS. We also call for affirmative action and empowering policies from governments in dealing with people living with HIV/AIDS. We call upon the Catholic faithful to serve as shining examples in respecting the human dignity of, and offering special care to, people who are living with HIV/AIDS.
Just as Christ identified himself with the suffering, we Christians are now called upon to identify ourselves with the vulnerable and the suffering in the face of this great menace of HIV/AIDS. Loving and caring solidarity will take away all forms of stigmatisation (Lk 17:11-19).
Acknowledging the fact that a human person was created in the image and likeness of God, (Gn 1:27), all persons carry with them a dignity that is not diminished by suffering or sickness. Therefore, all facets of justice be they social, cultural, political, legal or economic, must also, without discrimination, apply to all people who are affected or infected with HIV.
6. Media
We recognise and acknowledge that public and private media are important partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Church, government and private media houses should take deliberate steps to use the media creatively in this fight. We call upon Catholic radio stations and media houses to find innovative ways to educate and sensitise people about HIV/AIDS, to promote counselling and good family values, and to enhance the positive appreciation of human sexuality and chastity.
7. Foods and Fruits
God the Creator has given our AMECEA region abundant healthy natural foods and fruits. We call upon our Governments in the region to promote sustainable agriculture in order to develop, protect, and preserve indigenous seeds, the soil and the environment.
As a Region highly affected and infected with HIV/AIDS we reiterate our commitment to making the provision of healthy natural foods and fruits a priority for all our people especially those living with HIV/ AIDS. We deplore the promotion of genetically modified foods and call upon our governments to put in place a policy that protects our natural foods and environment.
8. Couples with Special Difficulties
As Shepherds of the Catholic Church in the AMECEA Region, we have listened attentively to the cries of our people living with HIV/AIDS, and they have many questions. But let us be honest, there are no easy answers and not because we do not want to give them but they are simply not there. Let us not fall into the trap of feeling guilty or diminished when challenged by a worldly mentality that would like to solve all kinds of problems. When confronted with a situation like this let us turn to Christ and imitate Him in helping people find meaning for their suffering. The people themselves will then learn how to stand up and teach us all what “being healed” is all about. We pledge to redouble our efforts in marriage counselling. We call upon all pastoral agents to be close to the couples with special problems. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).
9. Integral Sexuality
Sexuality is a precious gift from God our Creator to every man and woman. We are therefore called to honour it, respect it, and use it according to God’s commandment and the teaching of the Church.
  • We call upon parents, teachers and pastoral agents to do everything in their power and capacity to teach children, youth, and all those preparing for marriage, about their human sexuality so that they acquire sound values and virtues to uphold chastity and shun all pre-marital sex.
  • We call upon all pastoral agents to guide married couples in living out their marriage vocation faithfully.
  • We condemn all negative and unethical use of sexuality in our Region.
10. Advocacy
We are committed as Church leaders to undertake a strong campaign of advocacy for persons infected and affected with HIV/AIDS before our governments, all sectors of society and international community, so that policies of affirmative action are made and greater financial and holistic assistance and support are given.
11. Sustainability of HIV/AIDS Programmes
In view of the challenges of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, especially the needs of our people living with this terrible disease and those affected by its impact, we recognise and appreciate what the local communities have done by providing material resources and a Christian witness in accompanying the sick and caring for the widows, widowers and the orphans in their midst (Mt 25:31-46). We are convinced that this is the path to a long term sustainable response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In so doing we become Good Samaritans (Lk10:30-37).
We are however aware of the need of the Church in the AMECEA region to access additional human and financial resources to support a comprehensive, coordinated, and effective response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We urge the Member Episcopal Conferences to intensify strategic collaboration with governments and international funding agencies. On its part, AMECEA will support these efforts through lobbying and advocacy.
12. Ecumenical and Interfaith Approach
We realise that to confront the many facets of HIV/AIDS we need to network with our ecumenical partners and the interfaith organisations and communities, which share similar objectives and programmes on HIV/AIDS. Our programmes should be shared so as to have greater impact in view of those living with HIV/AIDS. This networking will help us to avoid duplication of efforts and increase the mobilisation of the required human resources for a consolidated response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
13. New Policies in our Church
We commit ourselves to formulating new policies in our evangelisation so that the challenge of HIV/AIDS is focused-on and mainstreamed in all activities to enhance the holistic approach.
We therefore request all our AMECEA Institutions of higher learning, formation houses and seminaries, to treat the issue of HIV/AIDS thoroughly in their programmes of study. Some of them should be prepared as counsellors for the HIV/AIDS awareness programmes of our region.
  • We mandate all our departments and commissions at Episcopal Conference level to integrate the challenge of HIV/AIDS in their programmes and activities.
  • We commit ourselves to do the same at our Diocesan level and down to the Small Christian Communities.
  • We fully adopt the Plan of Action of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and
Madagascar (SECAM), for our AMECEA region, in responding to the HIV/AIDS challenge (Cf. SECAM, The Church in Africa in the face of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic, 2003, #IV).
14. Globalisation
While we acknowledge that globalisation has positive elements such as facilitating easy and faster communication that can lead to greater solidarity between peoples and nations, we are greatly concerned about its negative effects.
  • We are particularly horrified by the ravages of unbridled capitalism, which has taken away and stifled local ownership of economic initiatives and is leading to a dangerous gap between the rich few and the poor majority.
  • We are deeply alarmed by the promotion of pornography in all forms through all types of media, which corrupt children and the youth and contribute to the further spread of HIV/AIDS.
  • We further deplore the liberalisation and commercialisation of sex for all, which is contrary to human and religious values of sex and sexuality and contributes to the promotion of unchristian sexual tendencies and the destruction of the family institution as it has been known since time immemorial.
15. Debt Cancellation and Real Development Assistance
In order to promote global and human solidarity we appeal to the rich nations of the world to cancel immediately the debt of the poorest countries. This will free the much needed resources for integral human development and will, in the long run, consolidate the fight against HIV/AIDS. We appreciate the efforts of the Tony Blair Commission for Africa and sincerely hope that its good intentions will be matched by good deeds.
16. Other Important Challenges
16.1 Peace in Southern Sudan
We are grateful to God that the twenty-one years war in Sudan has finally come to an end through a comprehensive peace deal. We thank all those who have contributed to this especially Inter Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) the leaders and the people of Kenya, and the many other people who have played a significant role on this long peace process. The new Sudan is now challenged to translate the peace written on paper to practical peace, to reconciliation, and to the peace of mind and heart. We call upon the African Union, all leaders and peoples of Africa, and all countries of the world to generously contribute to the emergency needs, the rehabilitation and full-scale development of the Southern Sudan. We commit ourselves to an active role of advocacy and assistance in peace building in the new Sudan.
16.2 Conflict in Darfur
We are saddened by the ongoing conflict in Darfur (Sudan). During the more than two years of war, more than 300,000 people are dead. Many Sudanese people are now refugees in Chad and many more others are displaced from their homes. We deplore the suffering of the people in that region. We strongly advocate a peaceful resolution to this conflict through the active involvement of the African Union, the United Nations, and other international bodies. We also urge that the approach for a solution in Darfur be treated separately from the peace agreement on the Southern Sudan, and particularly this should not overshadow nor block the need for humanitarian assistance and development to Southern Sudan.
16.3 Northern Uganda
We once again call upon the government and people of Uganda to urgently resolve the armed conflict in Northern Uganda through peaceful means so that the suffering people in the internally displaced people’s camps may return to their homes. We call upon the rebels Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to heed the cry of their people and accept dialogue with the government and its peace team to end this long lasting conflict.
16.4 Eritrea/Ethiopia
We call upon the governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia to urgently resolve the border conflict peacefully. We strongly appeal to the international community to do whatever is possible to resolve the conflict so that the two countries can resume good neighbourly cross-border relations.
17. Africa Shall Survive!
As AMECEA Bishops we are very optimistic that Africa shall survive. We share our optimism with all our fellow citizens in AMECEA Region that Africa shall survive. We shall live and future generations shall also live. The HIV/AIDS pandemic shall be defeated. This strong optimism comes from our Christian Faith (cf. Rm 8:35). God loves Africa and its people. The people of Africa have rich inner energies and noble values, courage and determination to defeat the pandemic.
  • We call upon all peoples of Africa to undertake a courageous struggle against HIV/AIDS.
  • We call upon all leaders and peoples of Africa and leaders and peoples of other continents to respect Africa and to completely desist from giving Africa a negative image through the media. Africa does not need pity but genuine love and solidarity. Christ is our Life, our Hope and Saviour.
  • We therefore reject and condemn any negative predictions about the future of Africa and any marginalization of Africa as a continent.
18. Conclusion
As we conclude our 15th AMECEA Plenary, we offer our love and prayers to all the people in our region who are living with HIV/AIDS and those affected by it. We promise to stand by you, and encourage all our pastoral agents to serve and care for you in a holistic manner. As full members of our Church and society, we invite you to fully participate in the life of the Church, and approach us, and continue to speak out, so that we can continue to minister to you according to the mission we have received from Christ the Chief and Good Shepherd, enlightened and united to the redemptive value of Christ’s suffering. May the God of Love protect you and give you more faith and hope to live positively and respond lovingly to His call.
Let the heroic example of the Uganda Martyrs be a guide to our sexual moral behaviour in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Signed: + Paul Bakyenga
Archbishop of Mbarara - Uganda
Chairman - AMECEA
Given at the Catholic Cathedral of Lugazi Diocese, Lugazi - Uganda, on 11th June 2005, Feast of St Barnabas

Esperanza De Vidha Atencion Pastoral A Personas Que Viven con SIDA (Catholic Bishops Conference of Mexico) 19/01/05

BOLETÍN DE PRENSA CON MOTIVO DEL PROYECTO:
“ESPERANZA DE VIHDA”
ATENCIÓN PASTORAL A PERSONAS QUE VIVEN CON SIDA
Mucho más que las numerosas enfermedades infecciosas que la humanidad ha sufrido a lo largo de la historia, el SIDA tiene profundas repercusiones de naturaleza moral, social, económica, jurídica y organizativa, no sólo en las familias y en las agrupaciones locales, sino también en las naciones y en todos los pueblos.
Desde la aparición de la epidemia del VIH-SIDA en los años 80, se han registrado más de 22 millones de muertes por esta enfermedad. Actualmente 42 millones de personas la padecen, y entre ellas más de 260 mil viven en la República Centro-Africana.
Por esta razón, y en respuesta a la convocatoria que la Santa Sede ha hecho para hacer frente a este virus en el mundo, CÁRITAS, la Comisión Episcopal de Pastoral Social y la Universidad Iberoamericana de Puebla, en unión con los proyectos que la ONU tiene para combatir esta epidemia, han elaborado una serie de actividades que comprenden el proyecto: “Esperanza de VIHDA”, que tiene como metas fundamentales:
  1. Organización de una colecta nacional en favor de los enfermos de VIH de la      República Centro Africana, el próximo domingo 13 de febrero del 2005.
  2. Diseño de una campaña de sensibilización sobre el VIH – SIDA.
  3. Elaboración de talleres y materiales de apoyo para enfermos de VIH-SIDA.
  4. Estrategias de apoyo para la adquisición de medicamentos.
  5. Elaboración de materiales de apoyo contra la discriminación y estigmatización a cero positivos y enfermos de SIDA.
Las personas con SIDA no son personas lejanas, poco conocidas, ni son el objeto de nuestra mezcla de lástima y repulsión. Concientemente debemos tenerlos presentes, como individuos, y como comunidad acogerlos con un amor incondicional.
Debemos rechazar la doctrina falsa que el VIH-SIDA es un castigo de Dios, es más bien una llamada a trabajar conjuntamente en la formación y sensibilización de la humanidad para disminuir nuevas infecciones y la discriminación de aquellos que son portadores de este virus.
A este lamentable problema del SIDA en el mundo, se le añade la expectativa de falsas soluciones como el uso del condón. Es necesario dar soluciones de fondo: una educación sexual madura, la promoción del amor que no se limita al placer físico, y el fomento de valores que respondan y respeten al ser humano en toda su dimensión.
Recordemos que el SIDA no es sólo un problema biomédico, sino un problema social que nos afecta a todos los seres humanos y que exige de nosotros acciones eficaces y solidarias.
Por los Obispos de México,
Mons. Carlos Aguiar Retes
Obispo de Texcoco
Secretario General de la CEM

Ethiopian Catholic Church: HIV and AIDS Policy 27/06/04

Preamble
According to UNAIDS 2004 report, around 1.5 million people are estimated to be HIV infected in Ethiopia, including 96,000 children under the age of five years, making the country fifth in Africa. The HIV/AIDS situation in Ethiopia has evolved from two reported AIDS cases in 1986 to a cumulative total of 147,000 by mid 2003 but the vast majority are unreported and many more have died unnoticed and unaided. In Ethiopia, the most common route of HIV transmission is sexual; the disease affects individuals in their most productive years, when they are raising their children, and are needed for the support and guidance of their families. Children are being orphaned, and many are living with the virus themselves. Thus the epidemic is devastating the family and the extended family system that has been responsible for maintaining essential economic and social supports in Ethiopia. The HIV epidemic and its effects are unprecedented in modern history, and are therefore part of “the grief and anxieties of the people of this age and are the grief and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”1 The Catholic Church, in its attitudes and actions towards all those affected by HIV/AIDS, must manifest those of Jesus who loved little children, was compassionate towards the sick, who did not come to judge or condemn, and who said, ‘In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers [and sisters] of mine, you did it to me’ (Mt. 25:40). Jesus also tells us that illness of any kind is not a punishment from God, or an indication that a person has sinned, ‘but that the works of God might be revealed in him’ (Jn.9:3). “God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts; for that reason he forbids us to make judgements about the internal guilt of anyone.”2 We believe that men and women are created equally. They both have an equal and inherent worth, dignity and honour. In honouring one another, we are honouring life itself. And yet, HIV transmission is often linked with the vulnerability and abuse of women or young boys and girls. The HIV epidemic forces us to look at and discuss openly, topics that have traditionally been considered taboos. It demands that we examine, and challenge, if necessary, traditional and cultural beliefs, norms, practices, and expectations, in particular about gender roles for children, men and women. Some beliefs and practices can enhance the transmission of HIV and worsen its effect, and need to be changed. At the same time, it is important to reverence and value our traditions and not condemn those who practice customs in the past that are now seen as harmful. However, it is important to be honest and courageous in discussing these issues, so that we can deal with the epidemic in the most effective ways, and contribute in reducing its harmful impacts and protecting generations to come from infection.
The interpretation that AIDS is God’s punishment to sin is damaging, because the judgemental attitudes that result are seriously undermining the efforts at care, support and prevention. It is also theologically unsustainable, a fact that is demonstrated powerfully in the book of Job, and also in many of the healing narratives of the gospels. Furthermore, in reflecting about the connection between HIV transmission and sin, it is important to remember that many people who become infected bear no responsibility for their condition: namely babies born with the virus, abused women and children, and faithful partners of unfaithful spouses. Furthermore, whether we are HIV infected or not, we are all sinners. As communities and as individuals, we have fallen short of the glory of God. To stigmatise the other is to deny this truth.
Ethiopian Catholic Church
Addis Ababa, 2004
(Footnotes)
1 .Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, par. 1.

Bishops Conference of Mozambique: Cure the Sick 24/04/04

 
CURE THE SICK (Luke 10:9)
Pastoral Letter
The grace, peace and salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all the people of our dioceses.
As bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique, we are deeply concerned by the disease of AIDS which is devastating the country’s population throughout the Provinces, especially in the areas bordering on neighbouring countries. In this pastoral letter we seek to deplore this disastrous situation which the nation is discussing, to show our appreciation for those who work to bring this evil to light, and as Pastors of the Flock, to collaborate in seeking effective solutions for the grave problems of AIDS which affect the life of the people and the development of the nation.
In the years 1993-95, the Episcopal Commission of Health held three national level seminars on AIDS in the Provinces of Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Maputo, inviting delegates from all the diocesan Health Commissions as well as doctors and nurses of the Health Services. Our intention was to alert those responsible for pubic health in the whole nation, about the gravity of AIDS and to mobilize energies to combat it. Although especially aimed at the highly qualified, these seminars did not create much response, perhaps because, in those years, the number of persons infected and the consequences of this pandemic did not seem as serious as they do today.
In recent years, the Health Services and other organizations and NGOs, alerted by the current torrent of infections throughout the country, undertook various activities intended to diminish the rate of infections, above all in the youth sector and among the newly-married. Huge quantities of national and private funds were dedicated to the cause.
In past years, neither the seriousness of the epidemic nor the obviously growing number of persons infected, have received much attention. On the contrary, the seriousness of the illness was hidden and low statistics published which did not correspond with the reality, so as not to cause alarm. Today, there is no need to have recourse to statistics to take the seriousness of the situation on board; the reality cries out for itself. Mozambique has one of the highest rates of infection of all the countries of Africa: 17% of adults and children; 500,000 orphans.
1. Prevention
After all the work that has been done in recent years in AIDS prevention, how is it that we have arrived at this point of national disaster? -- Is it the result of the campaigns promoting condoms targeting young people especially, to whom enormous quantities of condoms were distributed with public demonstrations of how to use correctly this protective device?
It seems clear that the results do not match the efforts made in those campaigns. This suggests to us that something is wrong, something missing in trying to prevent HIV using condoms.
In fact, the way in which HIV-prevention using condoms is normally presented is misleading. “To present the condom as a secure means of non-infection, and in such a way as to convince the target group that, if they use a condom, nothing bad can happen to them, such publicity is misleading; and since we’re dealing with an infection that kills, it should be called criminal propaganda.”1
In schools, posters are put up promoting the condom. Rather than reduce the risk of infection, they illustrate how to use it in such an attractive way that adolescents and young people are encouraged to joke about a serious matter. What is one to make of posters with provocative photographs and captions like “enjoy life more with skill”, “enjoy life more with health”? As publicity, is it supposed to signal danger or to seduce?
In fact, leaving aside the false premise of condoms as a sure means of protection, what are the prospects for young people who get into the habit of using them?
Should we be asking whether the condom promotion undertaken so far is responsible, to a great extent, for the multiplication of infections which have been detected, especially among young people?
Apart from misleading information about the value of the condom as protection, one important thing is missing, namely, any serious formation of young men and women for life. They need to be formed to live a single life of truth and goodness, and with idealism for married life. The time when one looks forward to family life already includes a commitment of fidelity to the future spouse and respect for the dignity of the family, and these should not be debased by sexual jokes or premature experiences which seriously disrupt the good social order.
Appropriate formation should be offered to married people, so that they might live in mutual fidelity, joyfully accepting the sacrifices which conjugal chastity requires and which are abundantly compensated with fruits of peace in the family and in society.
Therefore, with all our heart and all our soul we exhort young men and women not to allow themselves to be lured by an easy and deceptive lifestyle which leads to disaster and to bitterness, but enthusiastically and firmly to opt for a path of austerity and dignity, source of happiness and health. The sacrifices made for the sake of abstinence will be well compensated by happiness and joy now and in the future.
With all confidence we exhort couples to take up their family life in mutual fidelity and dedication, with the proper demands which conjugal life includes, as witness to a true love without equal, spurning any sexual relationship outside the family.
2. Infections by contact with blood
Sexual relationships are not the only means of transmitting HIV. Infections can also spread by contact with the blood of an infected person: in blood transfusions, in the use of surgical instruments not properly sterilized, in the treatment of cuts and wounds with unsterilized razors, scissors or tweezers, and especially in the incisions and vaccinations of traditional healers, and in the small operations of traditional rites of initiation. All these involve great risk of infection. If we encourage care, prudence and professional responsibility when treating in hospitals and health centres, what should we say about traditional treatments of popular medicine and how some traditional rites are carried out? In many cases it would be just and necessary to have the health-services present and even involved to assure hygienic care and to avoid every danger of infection.
3. Infection by vertical transmission
The dangers of vertical infection, from mother to child, also have to be taken into account. Normally, if the mother is infected, then pregnancy, birth and breast-feeding can all be occasions of infection. Medical science has made notable progress in preventing such vertical infections by treating mother and child with anti-retrovirals both before and after birth. Even so, as long as infections in the parents are not overcome, vertical infection will continue to be a source of concern for children’s health. In Mozambique, some 50,000 newly born children are estimated to be vertically infected each year.
4. Consequences of the spread of AIDS
Given how the AIDS pandemic has spread across our country, problems are not resolved merely by efforts to restrain or eliminate the advance of the contamination. We need to be aware of the consequences of the spread of infection: the suffering of infected children and adults, those who know their positive HIV status, orphans, the widows and widowers … the rejection faced by people touched by AIDS, and the funding needed to solve these problems.
We have to consider the harm done to the nation through loss of manpower, teachers, nurses and other health workers, technicians, public and private employers.
Great as these difficulties are, they cannot leave us paralysed. Our trust is in the Lord who invested us with this pastoral ministry and promised to be with us.
5. Counselling, services and teams
In some cities and towns, centres have been built for counselling and serving those suffering from AIDS and also for the HIV-positive. If such initiatives are going to bear the fruit required, the centres must be staffed with teams of very generous and well trained personnel.
In this area, special mention must be made of the DREAM (Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition) programme of the Community of Sant’Egidio; in a short time, three major centres have been established in Maputo, Beira and Nampula to serve the people of Mozambique in the struggle against AIDS. Each centre has a highly specialised laboratory and a network of small centres and home services, permanently operating.
Times of great calamity are usually also times of heroic dedication. We want to remind the young men and women of Mozambique of the example of St Aloysius Gonzaga, young student of 22 years who, during the plague, went out onto the streets of Rome, picking up plague victims left outside their homes, putting them on his back and carrying them to hospital. We also want to remind them of the example of St. John of God who, after finding happiness in a military career, consecrated his life to gathering all sorts of patients abandoned in the streets of the towns of Granada. And who can fail to admire the heroism of Father Damien and Raul Follereau, apostles of the lepers, who put their lives at risk and even sacrificed them totally for their leper friends?
Finally, let us remember Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, apostle of the aged, the dying and of abandoned children. In Mozambique, do we not need volunteers, young and adult, to come forward and offer themselves to help their brothers and sisters afflicted by the calamity of AIDS?
There are Dioceses where volunteers already work with the sick and HIV-positive orphans, but the personnel serving in the Health Centres and in the parishes need to be reinforced.
6. Pastoral Approaches for Health, recommended by the Episcopal Conference
Ø      For young people: perfect abstinence. In many cases this requires a change of behaviour. Accordingly, in parishes and youth centres, it is urgent to organize programmes to educate young men and women about the life of chastity in perfect celibacy until marriage. This is the only sure way to avoid HIV-infection and also the only way worthy of young people who want to do justice to their youth and work together for the health of the nation and to build an environment of mutual trust and joy among young people. It is also the dignified and responsible way to prepare oneself for a happy marriage.
Ø      For married couples: demanding fidelity, constantly renewed by married love. This is the absolutely effective path to stop the multiplication of infections through sexual relationships and also to avoid the danger of vertical infections. This work of education is, by its nature, slow, more effective, secure and worthwhile. We encourage married couples to embrace this way with faith and enthusiasm so as to create an atmosphere of optimism in family life and to be a witness to all Mozambican married couples.
Ø      Couples in which one or both spouses are infected: in trust they should approach a counselling team for on-going accompaniment with friendship and understanding, to strengthen them in their way of abstinence until medical science discovers effective means of fighting the infection. Christian matrimonial love is made stronger and is transformed into a truer spiritual love, by the mutual sacrifice of abstinence required by conjugal fidelity.
Ø      Children vertically infected: They need continuous medical assistance. We hope that medical science soon advances to the point of being able to guarantee non-infection and manage to immunize the child within the mother’s womb.
Ø      Orphan children: In the whole of Africa, they are said to be 14 million orphans; in Mozambique, five hundred thousand. These are chilling figures! The co responsibility of everyone in Africa needs to be awakened. The human dignity of these orphan children requires that they enjoy a natural right to grow. Each country must take on the duty of seeking and finding an appropriate way to support and educate its orphans. And so that the numbers not keep growing, the Church in each country and we, the Church in Mozambique, need to continue showing the safe ways of non-infection and to motivate people to behave in conformity with the dignity of the human person.
Ø      The terminally ill: They should be accompanied in a care centre where they can find the consolation of hope and be led to the heart of family where they will be welcomed with respect and comprehension.
7. Recommended Programmes in every Diocese
Ø      In Dioceses where a project of information and formation already functions according to the method of Stepping Stones, the project should be extended to all the towns and villages of the Diocese. In Dioceses where there is no such programme, let projects urgently be organized following this example and with the help of the Health Commissions of their pastoral region.
                                i.            Counselling and care for those ill with AIDS: in every Diocese there should be one or several counselling centres, controlled, where possible, by the Diocesan Health Commission.
                              ii.            Orphans and financial aid: the Diocesan Commission of Caritas. In coordination with the Health Commission, each Parish should take interest in getting to know the real situation of its orphans. Parishes should be helped to provide solutions and education for them, in coordination with the social services.
                            iii.            In each Parish:
§         The pastors and their co-workers should tirelessly speak with everyone about the evils of AIDS and about the only way to prevent the infections from multiplying: rigorous abstinence for young single people and perfect marital fidelity for couples.
§         During his pastoral visit, they should inform the Bishop about the work of the Ad Hoc Commission, its difficulties and its achievements.
§         Inform young people about the immoral use of the condom and the poor security which this means offers to protect from contamination.
§         Denounce the misleading and seductive posters which promote condoms.
§         Continually strengthen young people in the life of chastity and encourage them to live in respect and in sexual integrity as is proper to being young.
§         Promote a serious moral education and a healthy social life, free of vice, among young men and women in schools.
§         Create a pure and fraternal environment among children which prepares young children to be free of hatred and wickedness.
§         Maintain a firm position regarding the sexual abuse of children.
§         Stay abreast of advances in medicine about HIV prevention.
§         Work together to set up centres of counselling and care for HIV-positive couples.
§         Promote and orient the Parish Caritas Commission or other ad hoc groups to organize a register of the orphans of the parish, noting in the file who is the relative responsible for each orphan.
                            iv.            Caritas Mozambique
Along with the Diocesan Caritas, Caritas Mozambique should assume   the task of obtaining the means of subsistence for orphans and others in need organized in the Parishes. Caritas Mozambique should also see to it that the International Community make funds available in order to alleviate the suffering of orphans and to provide free access to essential medications for those infected.
                              v.            Commitment of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique
As Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique, we commit ourselves to bring about, by all means at our disposal, the implementation of the guidelines in this pastoral letter in all the Dioceses, for the physical and spiritual wellbeing of the people entrusted to our pastoral care. We thank God for the protection received until now, in all the Dioceses, and we implore, with humility and trust, the blessing of our infinitely merciful God for our people, especially for those suffering and for those who work to bring this national disaster to light and to build up a society in health, in dignity and in peace.
Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique
Maputo, 24 April 2004
(Footnotes)
1 Revista Acção Médica 77:2 (Lisbon: April-June 2003).

Angola On the Way to Hope (Catholic Bishops of Angola) 24/03/04

OUR HOPE FOR HEALTH
We feel unconditional solidarity with our Government and especially with the President of the Republic, in their concern for the illness of the century - AIDS. It is a curse which cannot leave anyone indifferent. It condemns patients to exclusion and to death, it condemns children to orphan hood and hunger, it condemns families to lose their human resources, and it condemns nations to lose their productive forces.
The State, the Church, the Family, the School, the Media should commit themselves to educate society to comprehend the patients and not to exclude them. Then, above all, it should do everything possible to prevent the spreading of such a mortal illness, especially among adolescents and young people.
While we laud the initiative of advertising campaigns against AIDS, we cannot approve of their method, when limited to advising the use of the condom without showing the courage to call for responsibility and abstinence.
As the condom is not absolutely effective, its indiscriminate promotion, even to the point of its distribution among children, leads to the cult of sexual pleasure. And for the latter to be more fully experienced, even those who have a condom refuse to use it, leading to the spread of AIDS.
The most effective method known until now, to prevent the sexual transmission of AIDS, is what the Church has taught and continues to teach: complete abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity after marriage.
Not to recognize this and not to dare teach it would be a deplorable attitude. To refuse young people the help they need in order to be voluntarily chaste when they are healthy, means to condemn them to be obligatorily chaste after they have become ill.
If our society really wants to prevent our youngsters and adolescents from getting AIDS, it also has to have the courage to protect and vaccinate them against the pornographic films which corrupt them, even on public television, and to collaborate more with the Church in education for self-control and for true self-defence, not only of their physical but also moral health.
Let us remind the commercializers of sex that one cannot identify liberty with libertinage nor democracy with immorality. That would be the corruption of democracy itself.
The Catholic Bishops of Angola
Luanda, 24 March 2004

Pastoral Letter on HIV/AIDS and the Churches Response (Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar) 30/10/03

Attn: To all Priests, Religious and the Faithful in Myanmar.
Beloved in Christ,
PASTORAL LETTER ON HIV/AIDS AND THE CHURCH’S RESPONSE
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
Over 50 million people worldwide - men, women and children, have been infected with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Everyday, in the year 2002, there were about 14,000 new infections. More than 95% of them are in developing countries. Along with physical, emotional and economic suffering, HIV brings in its wake stigma, discrimination and injustice for people infected or affected by the virus. People can be turned away from health or education services, denied housing or employment, evicted from their homes by families or neighbours, divorced by spouses, sunned by friends and colleagues, refused entry visas to other countries, attacked physically and even murdered because they have, or are suspected of having, HIV. Sadly, people infected or affected by HIV can also experience rejection, isolation and condemnation within their faith communities. The stigma attached to HIV/AIDS may extend into the next generation, placing an emotional burden on children who are trying to cope with the death of their parents from AIDS. Therefore, stigma and discrimination have become major obstacles to effective HIV prevention and care.
“Live and Let live” is the slogan for the World AIDS campaign for 2002-2003. The campaign focuses on eliminating stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS. As followers of Jesus we are asked to bring the Good News to the poor and proclaim liberty to captives. In response to this challenge of the gospel, the Catholic Church has a long tradition of upholding the dignity of the poorest and those most marginalized.
“AIDS threatens not just some nations or societies but the whole of humanity. It knows no frontiers of geography, race, age or social condition…The threat is so great that indifference on the part of public authorities, condemnatory or discriminatory practise towards those affected by the virus or self-interested rivalries in the search for a medical answer should be considered forms of collaboration in this terrible evil which has come upon humanity.” - Pope John Paul II,Tanzania, September 1990
The gravity of situation with regard to HIV/AIDS in Myanmar:
Myanmar is among the countries of South East Asia that are affected by HIV. Although the incidence of infection caries widely between different States, no area of the country is free of HIV. Thus to a greater or lesser extent all dioceses are affected by HIV.
  • The virus has no respect of age, gender, ethnicity or religious belief. All communities within Myanmar, rural and urban, Christian, Buddhist, Animist and those of no religious belief are all affected.
  • The immediate vectors of infection are well identified: blood, sexual fluids and breast milk. The underlying causes of infection for the majority of people in Myanmar are linked to poverty and powerlessness:
    • Young girls are forced by family poverty to cross the borders into neighbouring countries (mostly Thailand and India) or, increasingly, to migrate to the bigger cities in Myanmar. Family pressures on them to provide basic necessities, or even luxury goods, drive this migration. In all instances many of these girls end up as sex workers. Not infrequently, girl children are sold by their families into sex industry. (PG68!!!)
    • Young men find their only employment opportunity at times in opium harvesting / production or in the mines where they are forced to endure harsh working conditions. Both scenarios rapidly lead to heroin dependency and injecting drug use, and/or casual sex as a coping mechanism.
  • Increasingly in towns and villages throughout Myanmar, young people are getting sick and dying. Children are also becoming sick and dying. These deaths are AIDS–related. Families are breaking up. Many children orphaned by AIDS are being abandoned and neglected. Priests, religious sisters and lay catechists are witnessing this in every diocese.
  • People infected suffer discrimination, isolation and neglect. They cannot get health care, even if they can afford it, they often lose their jobs, homes, are rejected by other family members and neighbours, and often even by their faith community.
  • AIDS brings shame and disgrace. Therefore denial is widespread. Families refuse to acknowledge their loved ones have AIDS. They hide them away, or even ask them to leave. They bury their dead at night, covertly.
Challenges and Opportunities for the Catholic Church
  • The Church is in a privileged position of being able to reach people worst affected by HIV, in villages and towns where, often, no NGO has access, and where locally based or government led HIV-related care and prevention programmes are non existent. Church personnel have the potential to provide at least basic care and support for people infected and affected, to educate about the infection and how it can be prevented, and to reduce the stigma and discrimination suffered by people infected and affected by HIV.
  • HIV raises one of the biggest taboo subjects; sex. Thus open discussion of sexual health and sexual behaviours is difficult. Within Church circles this taboo may be stronger.
  • HIV also illustrates many instances of discrimination and violation of basic human rights. People who are affected are discriminated against socially and economically, in numerous ways. People suspected of being infected (perhaps because of their work or their past history) can also suffer this discrimination.
  •  People with HIV need:
    • Unconditional acceptance and support.
    • Recognition of the contributions they can make in continuing to be active members of their community and country.
    • Respect
    • Care within their family and community, not isolated from these in institutions if they are sick
    • Psychological, social, spiritual and material support whenever possible
    • Freedom from discrimination and stigma
    • Information to understand HIV and how they can best protect their own health and that of people closest to them
  • Everyone needs:
    • Information to understand HIV and how they can best protect themselves and others
    • Support in addressing the underlying causes that make them vulnerable to HIV
    • To acknowledge their fears and prejudices and work to diminish these
How can the Church Respond?
  • All who hold positions of leadership in the Church (bishops, priests, religious, catechists and lay leaders) need to be well informed about HIV and also about the ethical and moral questions raised by HIV. Materials and Information are available from UNAIDS and UNICEF offices in Yangon, and the Changes for Life Health program conducted by Karuna in your dioceses.
  • In every diocese, the Church must look to support all those within their geographic region who are affected by or vulnerable to HIV, and not just Catholics or Christians.
  • Bishops and priests are public figures in the communities they serve. They can lead by example, in what they say and what they do.
    • Every Sunday, priests and bishops have an opportunity to speak out. They can use their sermons to condemn any form of discrimination against people affected by HIV, to educate their communities about HIV and AIDS, and to address some of the root causes of infection in Myanmar. They can challenge the attitudes of families who pressurise their daughters/sisters to get money or luxury goods for them by any means. They can challenge parishioners who gossip, isolate and stigmatise families affected by AIDS.
    • Bishops and priests can make sure that they and their parishioners are not judgment in their works or actions and that people with HIV and their families are always welcome in the liturgies and wider activities of their Church community.
    • Bishops and priests can encourage the diocese to seek alternative employment opportunities for young men and women whose present options heighten their vulnerability to HIV.
    • Bishops and priests can visit people sick with AIDS, bringing them the sacraments and offering support to them and their families.
    • Bishops and priests can enable and encourage the HIV- related work of sisters and lay catechists. There are many examples where clergy say “our people don’t need to know about HIV/AIDS” or” Our people would be scandalised if we talked about sex”. In other instances priests or bishops have stopped lay people from raising awareness about HIV telling them they are not qualified to discuss these moral questions and even preventing them from giving scientifically proven sexual health information about HIV prevention. Such negative attitudes need to change if the Church is to offer any meaningful response to HIV/AIDS.
    • Bishops and priests can work in collaboration with leaders of other Christian Churches and other faiths, to offer a united response to the epidemic.
  • All Church commissions and groups can look to see how they can respond to HIV and AIDS; in their health work of caring for the sick and preventing new infections, in education, social welfare, liturgy, youth work, employment and much more. Through the work of these commissions, the Church can provide care and support for all who are affected by HIV. It can also raise awareness about the risks and consequences of infection and, because information alone is not sufficient, the Church can seek ways of changing some of the underlying factors that put people at risk of infection. Finally, the Church can condemn all forms of discrimination against people living with HIV or AIDS. The UNAIDS campaign for this year continues to be focussed on removing the stigma and discrimination suffered by people with HIV or AIDS. The church can play a key role, in its words and in its deeds, in breaking the silence surrounding HIV/AIDS and in eradication discrimination and injustices committed against people affected by this virus. This is the challenge posed by HIV/AIDS for the Church in Myanmar today. 
We are aware of the magnitude of the task ahead of us. We share a common ideal with all who are working to eliminate the stigma and discrimination attached to HIV and knows that it is only through our mutual collaboration that we can realise the World AIDS Campaign aspiration to "Live and Let Live".
We, the Bishops, request all priests to inform the faithful about this pastoral letter, to reflect and discuss with them what action can be taken at the local level. As 01 December is World Aids Day, we request all priests to offer the Mass on Sunday of 07 December 2003 for the victim of HIV/AIDS, their families and caregivers. Some special prayers are proposed for the liturgy kindly use them in your parish celebration.
Thank You.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Archbishop Charles Bo
President

L’Eglise En Afrique Face La Pandemie Du VIH/SIDA (Symposium des Conférences Episcopales, d’Afrique et Madagascar (SCEAM)) 07/10/03

Chers frères et soeurs dans la foi,
chers amis croyants et hommes de bonne volonté,
“A vous grâce et paix de par Dieu, notre Père, et le Seigneur Jésus-Christ” (1 Co 1, 3).
Nous, Cardinaux, Archevêques et Évêques d’Afrique et de Madagascar, vous saluons dans la foi et avec une chaleureuse affection. Au moment où notre 13ème Assemblée plénière du Symposium des Conférences épiscopales d’Afrique et de Madagascar (SCEAM) aborde les graves problèmes liés la pandémie du SIDA, nous pensons à vous, chers frères et soeurs infectés et/ou affectés par le VIH/SIDA et à vous tous, frères et soeurs de notre continent qui vous êtes levés pour relever le défi du SIDA.
 I Nous sommes solidaires
“De même que le corps est un, tout en ayant plusieurs membres, et que tous les membres du corps, en dépit de leur pluralité, ne forment qu’un seul corps, ainsi en est-il du Christ” (1Co 12, 12).
Avec cette image parlante pour tout homme, et de manière toute particulière pour le chrétien, nous voulons d’abord souligner notre solidarité. C’est comme un seul corps, avec ses millions de membres, que nous appelons tous les membres des communautés d’Afrique et de Madagascar à faire face à la pandémie dont la gravité ne doit échapper à personne.
Que cette solidarité soit soutenue par notre conscience vive de la gravité de la menace qui pèse sur nous. Des millions de vies humaines ont été déjà enlevées prématurément. Des familles entières se voient démantelées. Un nombre impressionnant d’enfants infectés par le VIH ou devenus orphelins, ont grandement besoin de protection, de soins, de logement, d’éducation et de parents adultes.
II Restons fidèles à nous-mêmes
Evêques, à la tête de nos communautés chrétiennes, nous entendons render disponibles les ressources propres à l’Église : ressources de nos dispositifs de santé, d’éducation et de soutien aux nécessiteux. Des bailleurs de fonds semblent plus disponibles aujourd’hui à soutenir les organismes à vocation chrétienne. Ouverts au partenariat avec eux, nous ferons place à leurs ressources dans notre lutte, mais sans rien perdre de nos convictions évangéliques. Car, “ce n’est pas depain seul que vivra l’homme, mais de toute parole qui sort de la bouche de Dieu” (Mt 4, 4).
Cette morale que nous enseignons au nom de Dieu est enracinée dans la dignité humaine, ce don inaliénable de notre Père qui crée chaque être humain et appelle chacun à la plénitude de vie. C’est ainsi que abstinence et fidélité ne sont pas seulement les meilleurs moyens d’éviter d’être infecté ou de contaminer les autres, mais encore la meilleure voie pour cheminer vers un bonheur durable et un épanouissement parfait.
Ainsi donc, frères et soeurs, montrez-vous fermes, inébranlables, toujours en progrès dans l’oeuvre du Seigneur, sachant que votre labeur n’est pas vain dans le Seigneur.” (1Co, 15, 58).
III Changeons de comportement
En plus d’enseigner la doctrine morale de l’Église et de partager ses convictions morales avec la Société civile, en plus d’informer et de conscientiser nos peoples sur les dangers d’une infection par le VIH, nous voulons promouvoir, par une éducation adaptée, les changements d’attitude et de comportement qui aboutissent à la maîtrise de soi avant le mariage et à la fidélité au sein du couple. Nous voulons nous investir dans une éducation à la vie affective et sexuelle qui vise à faire découvrir aux jeunes et aux couples la merveille de leur sexualité et de ses mécanismes de fécondité. C’est à partir d’un tel émerveillement que peuvent jaillir des comportements sexuels responsables et une manière de gérer sa fécondité dans le respect mutuel de l’homme et de la femme.
Ce type d’éducation ne peut être mené efficacement sans la collaboration essentielle de laïcs qui ne parlent pas seulement de principes de morale mais qui témoignent aussi, dans leur vie de jeunes et de couples, que la fidélité à ces principes moraux aboutit à une vie affective et sexuelle humanisante, épanouie. Cette education contribue aussi à promouvoir des familles saines et stables qui sont la meilleure prévention contre le SIDA. Des organisations spécialisées1 dans ce type d’éducation pour les jeunes et pour les couples existent en Afrique et obtiennent des résultats encourageants. Elles méritent notre soutien et nos encouragements.
IV Soyons responsables
Solidaires, nous nous voulons aussi responsables, car nous avons pris la mesure du caractère global du défi qui nous est lancé. Longues ou récurrentes, les guerres africaines ne finissent pas d’ensanglanter nos communautés. En plus, que nous réservent-elles pour l’avenir quand elles instaurent le viol comme arme, non seulement psychologique mais physiquement destructrice par le VIH/SIDA? Nous voyons aussi comment la pauvreté va de pair avec le VIH/SIDA. Nos économies déjà fragiles sont plus affaiblies encore par la perte des plus vigoureux de leurs artisans et d’une main-d’oeuvre formée mais diminuée par le VIH/SIDA. La pauvreté facilite la transmission du VIH, rend impossible l’accès au traitement adéquat, accélère la mort par les maladies liées au VIH et accentue l’impact social de la pandémie. Dans tous ces cas, “Que les membres (du même corps) se témoignent une mutuelle solicitude” (1Co 12, 25).
Cette solidarité entre nous et cette fidélité à la foi, cette volonté de changer de comportement et d’assumer toute notre responsabilité dans le devenir de notre continent, nous voulons les concrétiser dans le Plan d’action qui suit. Nous vous le communiquons pour que vous le fassiez aussi vôtre.
PLAN D’ACTION
Nous Cardinaux, Archevêques et Évêques du SCEAM, proposons aux membres du Clergé, aux hommes et aux femmes consacrés dans la Vie religieuse, aux fidèles laïcs et à toutes les personnes de bonne volonté, le plan d’action que voici2:
I. Solidaires avec vous, nous nous engageons à:
  1. Utiliser et accroître les ressources humaines, matérielles et financières, mises au service de la lutte contre le VIH/SIDA dans nos communautés, et à identifier des points focaux dans les paroisses, diocèses et conférences nationales, où se fera la collecte d’informations et où s’élaboreront les stratégies de lutte contre le VIH/SIDA. Dans cette même lancée, nous nous engageons à coordonner nos efforts à l’échelle continentale dans la lutte contre la pandémie.
  2. S’assurer que les services de santé de l’Église, les services sociaux, les établissements d’éducation répondent effectivement de façon adéquate aux besoins des personnes atteintes par la maladie.
  3. Mettre l’accent sur la vulnérabilité des filles en particulier et sur le lourd fardeau que portent les femmes dans le contexte de pandémie du VIH/SIDA en Afrique;
  4. Devenir de vaillants avocats pour l’accès au traitement de ceux qui en sont éloignés par la pauvreté et les injustices structurelles.
  5. Dans la recherche des moyens de lutte contre le SIDA, l’on veillera à associer les experts traditionnels en plantes et autres éléments favorables de la nature.
II. Fidèles à nos convictions évangéliques, nous nous engageons avec vous à:
  1. Collaborer avec les autres confessions chrétiennes et les autres religions travaillant dans leurs communautés respectives à soigner et soutenir les personnes infectées et/ou affectées par le VIH/SIDA.
  2. Promouvoir des partenariats plus élargis avec les gouvernements, les Nations Unies, les Agences Internationales et intergouvernementales, le monde des affaires, la société civile, pour apporter davantage de soins et de soutien aux personnes concernées, sans rien abandonner de nos convictions évangéliques.
III. Face à la gravité de la menace du SIDA, nous nous engageons avec
vous à:
  1. Promouvoir les changements de mentalité, d’attitude et de comportement necessaries pour relever le défi de la pandémie
  2. Travailler sans répit pour faire disparaître les discriminations et les stigmatisations et contester les normes sociales, religieuses, culturelles et politiques ainsi que les pratiques qui perpétuent ces discriminations et stigmatisations.
  3. Jouer un rôle primordial dans la suppression des clichés sociaux de discrimination et de stigmatisation, en faisant entrer dans les moeurs les tests volontaires du VIH, pour que les personnes atteintes puissent bénéficier des soins et du soutien qu’il faut. Cela permettra de mieux contrôler la transmission de mère à enfant.  
  4. Promouvoir à tous les niveaux des gouvernements et des organismes gouvernementaux, l’établissement de priorités politiques qui soutiennent de manière adéquate les personnes infectées ou affectées par le VIH/SIDA, de manière à leur ouvrir l’accès aux soins, et faire respecter leur dignité humaine, et, par ailleurs, mettre en oeuvre les engagements pris lors des diverses réunions intergouvernementales.
IV. Responsables avec vous, nous nous engageons à:
  1. Développer des programmes d’enseignement qui intègrent le thème du VIH/SIDA dans l’éducation théologique et religieuse. Ces programmes intégreront également les principes moraux et les compétences pratiques pour promouvoir des relations saines et une sexualité intègre.
  2. Impulser et approfondir la réflexion théologique sur les vertus telles que la compassion, l’amour, la guérison, la réconciliation et l’espérance, toutes vertus qui peuvent résoudre les problèmes de honte et de peur souvent associés au VIH/SIDA.
  3. Organiser des ateliers et des séminaires au niveau régional, national, diocésain et paroissial, ayant pour but d’accroître la connaissance précise et la sensibilité à tous les aspects pertinents du VIH/SIDA pour l’Église.
  4. Motiver les personnes vivant avec ou affectées par le VIH/SIDA à s’engager activement comme personnes ressources dans la lutte contre les effets de la pandémie au niveau de nos communautés locales.
V. Enfin, Pasteurs de l’Église Famille de Dieu en Afrique par temps de SIDA, nous voulons:
  1. Former le clergé, les religieux, les laïcs engagés, à accompagner les personnes malades ou affectées par le virus dans la prière et le conseil spirituel.
  2. Assurer une formation doctrinale, spirituelle, sociale, et la plus professionnelle possible, à tous ceux qui veulent s’engager dans la prise en charge et l’accompagnement des personnes infectées et/ou affectées par le VIH/SIDA.
  3. Accueillir dans nos Églises des personnes affectées par la pandémie en manière chaleureuse, juste et compatissante, et leur assurer “une place à la table du Seigneur”.
  4. Donner les sacrements et sacramentaux appropriés et requis aux catholiques vivant avec le virus.
  5. Relever le défi lancé par notre Saint Père le Pape Jean Paul II à l’Église dans notre continent, à travers son exhortation apostolique Ecclésia in Africa :
“La bataille contre le SIDA doit être celle de tous. En écho à la voix des Pères du Synode, j’exhorte également tous les Pasteurs de l’Église, à apporter à leurs frères et soeurs malades ou affectés par le VIH/SIDA, tout le soutien matériel, moral et spirituel nécessaires. J’exhorte d’urgence les scientifiques et les leaders politiques de ce monde, mus par l’amour et le respect dus à chaque personne humaine, d’utiliser les moyens disponibles pour mettre fin à ce fléau”3.
Nous nous orientons vers la création d’un SIDA Service au niveau continental pour donner corps ànos engagements.
(Signé) Symposium des Conférences Épiscopales d’Afrique et de Madagascar (SCEAM) enséance plénière, DAKAR-SENEGAL, 7 octobre 2003.
(Footnotes)
1 Education for Life, Youth Alive, Action Familiale, Pro Vita
2 Ces recommandations proviennent en partie du Plan d’Action préparé à l’Assemblée des Responsables religieux africains sur les Enfants et le VIH/SIDA (African Religious Leaders Assembly on Children and HIV/AIDS), Nairobi, 9-12 juin 2002, et du Plan d’Action sur le VIH/SIDA proposé par les Secrétaires généraux du SCEAM à leur rencontre à Johannesburg, 24-27 octobre 2002.
3 Pape Jean-Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa, 14 septembre 1995, n°116.
 

The Church in Africa in Face of HIV/AIDS Pandemic (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM)) 07/10/03

Dear brothers and sisters in the faith,
Dear friends, fellow believers and all people of good will,
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Cor. 1:3).
We, Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of Africa and Madagascar greet you in faith and with warm affection. Gathered in the 13th Plenary Assembly of our Bishops Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) we have taken up the AIDS pandemic and its horrible consequences. In doing so we have been very close to you, our dear brothers and sisters who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and also of you who have been moved to join in the fight against the scourge of AIDS.
I We are in solidarity.
“For just as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12).
This eloquent image expresses well the solidarity that we feel towards all who suffer, but especially towards you our Christian brothers and sisters, who are one single body, with millions who make up the communities of Africa and Madagascar. It is on you that we call to join together in confronting the pandemic whose gravity no one can ignore.
May this solidarity be matched by a keen awareness of the seriousness of the threat facing us. Millions of lives have already been lost prematurely, whole families dismemberedand untold numbers of children orphaned and/or infected by HIV. And it is they above all who need protection, nurture, housing, education and adult parents.
II Let’s be true to ourselves.
As heads of our Christian communities, we commit ourselves to making available our Church’s resources be they our educational and healthcare institutions or social services. We will work closely with all funders who are disposed to support and work with Christian and faith-based organisations. We are open to partnerships with them and others who are happy to put their resources to work in the struggle, and do so knowing well that we work according to our Gospel convictions. For “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that issues from the mouth of God” (Mt 4: 4).
The morality we teach in God’s name seeks to respect and affirm human life which gets its value and dignity from the fact that it is the inviolable gift from our Father who creates every human being and calls everyone to the fullness of life. Therefore abstinence and fidelity are not only the best way to avoid becoming infected by HIV or infecting others, but even more are they the best way of ensuring progress towards lifelong happiness and true fulfilment.
“Never give in then, brothers and sisters, never admit defeat; keep on working at the Lord’s work always, knowing that, in the Lord, you cannot be labouring in vain” (1 Cor 15: 58).
III Let’s change behaviour
Besides teaching the morality of the Church and sharing her moral convictions with civil society, and besides informing and alerting people to the dangers of HIV infection, we want to educate appropriately and promote those changes in attitude and behaviour whichvalue abstinence and self-control before marriage and fidelity within marriage. We want tobecome involved in affective and sexual education for the life to help young people andcouples discover the wonder of their sexuality and their reproductive capacities. Out of suchwonder and respect flow a responsible sexuality and method of managing fertility in mutualrespect between the man and the woman.
This type of education can only be undertaken effectively with the active collaboration of lay men and women who not only speak about principles of morality but also, as youth and as couples, give living testimony that fidelity to these moral principles yields a humanising and fulfilling affective and sexual life. Such education also contributes to promoting healthy and stable families, and these are the best prevention against AIDS. Organizations1 which specialise in such education for young people and for couples exist throughout Africa and are having a small but gratifying degree of success. We give them the support and encouragement they deserve.
IV Let’s be responsible.
The solidarity that we spoke of earlier binds us to joint responsibility in tackling the global and complex challenges facing us: interminable and recurrent wars, conflicts and violence in which rape is often used as a weapon, not just psychologically violent but physically destructive through HIV/AIDS!
We have also come to realise that poverty goes hand in hand with HIV and AIDS.  It concerns us that our already fragile economies should be further weakened with much of the trained labour force lost to HIV and AIDS. Poverty facilitates the transmission of HIV, makes adequate treatment unaffordable, accelerates death from HIV-related illness and multiplies the social impact of the epidemic.
In all these senses, “Let all the parts [of the one body] feel the same concern for one another” (1 Cor 12:25). This solidarity among us and this fidelity to our faith, this resolve to change behaviour and assume our entire responsibility for the future of our continent, now take concrete form in the following Plan of Action. We pass it on so that you can also make it yours.
PLAN OF ACTION
We, Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of SECAM, propose to the members of the clergy, brothers and sisters in religious life, to the faithful and all people of good will, the following plan of action:2
I. In solidarity with you, we commit ourselves to:
  1. Utilise and increase the human, material, and financial resources dedicated to address the situation of HIV and AIDS in our communities, and to identify focal points in parishes, dioceses, and national Episcopal conferences in order to assist with gathering information and development of programme strategies. In this same effort, we are committed to coordinating our efforts at the continental level in the struggle against the pandemic.
  2. Make sure that the health services of the Church, the social services and the educational institutions respond appropriately to the needs of those who are ill with AIDS.
  3. Focus on the particular vulnerability of girls and the heavy burden on women in the context of the HIV pandemic in Africa.
  4. Advocate vigorously for access to treatment for those who are prevented from obtaining it through poverty and structural injustices.
  5. Involve those who are knowledgeable about traditional medicines and other natural remedies in research into means of struggling against AIDS.
II. Faithful to our Gospel convictions, with you we commit ourselves to:
  1. Collaborate with other Christian confessions and with people of other faiths working in their respective communities to support those affected and infected by HIV/AIDS.
  2. Promote closer partnerships with civil society, the business sector, governments, the United Nations, international and intergovernmental agencies, and particularly with organisations of people living with HIV and AIDS, in order to increase the capacity for care and support, without diluting our evangelical convictions.
III. Facing the serious threat of AIDS, with you we are committed to:
  1. Promote changes of mentality, attitude and behaviour necessary for confronting the challenge of the pandemic.
  2. Work tirelessly to eradicate stigma and discrimination and to challenge any social, religious, cultural and political norms and practices which perpetuate such stigma and discrimination.
  3. Play a major role in eradicating the damaging myths of stigma and discrimination by facilitating Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) so that those who are infected might benefit from the care and support they need. This will also help better to control mother-to-child transmission.
  4. Advocate with government at all levels and with inter-governmental organizations to establish policy priorities that adequately support those affected by HIV and AIDS, that provide access to care and treatment and a life of dignity for people living with HIV and AIDS, and that implement the commitments made at various other inter-governmental meetings.
IV. In shared responsibility with you, we commit ourselves to:
  1. Develop educational programmes which integrate the theme of HIV/AIDS in theology and religious formation. These programmes will also include moral principles and practical skills for promoting healthy relationships and a well-integrated sexuality.
  2. Promote and deepen theological reflection on the virtues of compassion, love, healing, reconciliation, and hope, all of which are capable of confronting the judgement, shame, and fear that so often are associated with HIV and AIDS.
  3. Organize workshops at the regional, national, diocesan and parish levels in order to increase accurate knowledge and sensitivity around all HIV and AIDS-related issues relevant to our Church.
  4. Encourage people living with HIV/AIDS or affected by it to become actively involved, in our local communities, as resource persons in the struggle against the pandemic.
V. Finally, as Pastors of the Church Family of God in Africa in a time of AIDS, we want to:
  1. Train clergy, religious, and committed laity to accompany people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS with prayer and spiritual counselling.
  2. Provide doctrinal, spiritual and social formation, and the best possible professional training, for those willing to become involved in caring for and accompanying those who are living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
  3. Welcome people living with HIV and AIDS in a warm, non-judgemental and compassionate manner in our churches and ensure them a “place at the table of the Lord.”
  4. Provide the sacraments and sacramental’s, as appropriate and requested, to Catholics living with the virus.
  5. Put into action the challenge addressed by our Holy Father Pope John Paul II to the Church in our continent through his Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa:
“The battle against AIDS ought to be everyone’s battle. Echoing the voice of the Synod Fathers, I too ask pastoral workers to bring to their brothers and sisters affected by AIDS all possible material, moral and spiritual comfort. I urgently ask the world’s scientists and political leaders, moved by the love and respect due to every human person, to use every means available in order to put an end to this scourge.”3
We intend to create an HIV/AIDS service on the Continental level in order to assist us in implementing our Plan of Action.
(Signed) Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in plenary session, Dakar, Senegal, 7th October, 2003.
(Footnotes)
1 Education for Life, Youth Alive, Action Familiale, Pro Vifa
2 These recommendations are partly based on the Plan of Action prepared at the African Religious Leaders Assembly on Children and HIV/AIDS, Nairobi, 9-12 June 2002, and on the Proposed HIV/AIDS Plan of Action prepared at the SECAM Meeting of Secretaries General, Johannesburg, 24-27 October 2002.
3 Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa, 14 September 1995, #116.

The Fullness of Life: Pastoral Letter by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington 01/04/03

Feast of the Divine Mercy, 2003

In Saint John’s Gospel, the Lord speaks of the purpose of His coming. He tells us that He has come so that we might have life to the full (Jn 10, 10). I would like to reflect on that with you in the context of the terrible scourge of HIV/AIDS that is affecting our community, our nation and our world, and to talk about our call to solidarity with those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

   1. It is with deep sadness and sorrow that we see how HIV/AIDS has affected families in our local Church. Men and women of all ages and backgrounds have succumbed to this deadly scourge in the face of incredible stigma and enormous suffering over the past 20 years. We recognize the pain and loss of thousands of grieving families and friends. To them and to all who suffer with HIV/AIDS, we offer our support and love.

   2. HIV infection rates still remain high in our community. In 2001, the rate of AIDS cases reported in the District of Columbia was more than ten times the national rate on a per capita basis.(1) Even in our suburban neighbourhoods AIDS cases remain numerous. In 2001, Maryland ranked second among all states in the rate of reported AIDS cases; it ranked ninth in the nation in terms of cumulative AIDS cases.(2) Prince George’s County has the second largest number of AIDS cases in the state.(3) I

      mention these statistics only to show the depth of pain and suffering experienced in our community and to summon and strengthen our response as neighbours and believers and friends.

   3. The truth is that throughout our nation and in most developed nations, HIV/AIDS has caused, and continues to cause, so much pain, suffering and death. Today, new drug therapies allow more and more people with the virus to live longer, more productive lives -- a great blessing not only to those who are infected, but also to our society as a whole Yet, this should not give the impression that the devastation of AIDS is over. People are continuing to infect and re-infect themselves and others with increasingly resistant virus strains that are beginning to outpace current medicine and research. Some people even argue that the AIDS death rate may climb again to earlier levels and even increase beyond our past experience. Many medical experts believe that a vaccine is still 15 to 50 years away. Even then, it will not cure the millions of people who have or will have the virus and/or disease, nor will it necessarily stop all new transmissions.

   4. But it is in some underdeveloped nations, especially in Africa and in parts of Asia, that HIV/AIDS has reached apocalyptic proportions. Nearly 30 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, including almost three million children under the age of 15. In some nations, such as Zimbabwe and Botswana, at least one in three adults has HIV/AIDS.(4) These shocking statistics cannot convey the true magnitude of this catastrophe. Much more than a health problem, HIV/AIDS is wreaking social, economic and political devastation. Millions of families have lost one or both parents, leaving behind orphaned and homeless children. Doctors and nurses have died, while schools have lost teachers and students to the disease. Military and security forces have decreased in size and strength, which has threatened the political stability of some nations as they teeter on the brink of civil war. Societies are slowly crumbling into communities of orphans and elders who live with poverty and disease.

   5. While all of this may seem overwhelming, we cannot throw up our hands in despair. We have hope and trust in the promise made by our Lord that He came so that we might have life in its fullness. This does not simply mean earthly life, but also eternal life in communion with God, as well. Our Catholic Church holds out this promise of the fullness of life in Jesus Christ to all people, including those with HIV/AIDS.

   6. Those among us who are living with HIV/AIDS must not feel that they are alone and abandoned. We, who are their brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church, must walk in solidarity with them on their journey. As our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has said, “Solidarity is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people. On the contrary, it is a firm and preserving determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual because we are really responsible for all.”(5) Echoing the Holy Father’s words, we make this call for a culture of solidarity with people who are living with HIV/AIDS and with their families.

   7. We must manifest this solidarity through love. Our Lord shows us so often and in so many ways how to love one another. One of the finest examples of this love and solidarity is the story of the Good Samaritan. How many countless people living with HIV/AIDS are still suffering and abandoned by society? We must always imitate the self-giving and sacrifice of the Divine Good Samaritan who loved us and still continues to love us into new life.

   8. This love means that we need not be drawn into futile debates about concentrating on treatment versus prevention. We must do both. To emphasize one at the exclusion of the other is self-defeating, like building with one hand while destroying with the other. We must be compassionate and responsible in addressing HIV/AIDS, as the title of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ 1989 pastoral statement, Called to Compassion and Responsibility: A Response to the HIV/AIDS Crisis, reminds us.

   9. It was out of compassion that the Catholic Church stepped forward early in the AIDS crisis with a commitment and resources to love and serve people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. Our commitment has not wavered, but in fact has strengthened as Catholic organizations continue to provide direct and discreet service. In our local Church, the Archdiocese, parishes and Catholic medical centres provide pastoral and medical outreach. Worldwide, the Catholic Church provides approximately 25 percent of all AIDS care (6) through its ministries and many of its more than 110,000 health-care organizations.(7) That care is given with compassion, love and courage not only in our community, but in distant and often isolated nations. For example, Catholic Relief Services currently has programs to serve people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in 30 countries, primarily in Africa, but also in the hardest hit areas of Asia and Latin America.(8)

  10. Yet, it is not enough only to provide care for those living with HIV/AIDS. Compassion also calls us to address the crisis of values that so often leads to the spread of HIV/AIDS. As St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us, “The great kindness one can render to any man consists in leading him to truth.”(9)

  11. While many policies aim to prevent HIV/AIDS by advocating “safe sex” or “safer sex” through condom use and/or condom distribution, the Catholic Church recognizes these are not solutions, but myths. Condoms too often fail in preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, or the incurable Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that increases one’s susceptibility to HIV infection, while giving their users a false sense of security. Further, the use of condoms contradicts our faith’s understanding of sexual union as an expression of spousal love through a mutual and total gift of self.

  12. It is because our Church has a total vision of human dignity, which begets a deep love for all people and a respect for their well being in all dimensions -- physical, psychological, moral and spiritual-- that it rejects the false promises of condoms. Instead, we encourage people to embrace chastity, fidelity and sexual abstinence outside of marriage, behaviours that protect the physical and spiritual integrity, preserve their true dignity and promote true responsibility.

  13. Our critics often claim that chastity and sexual abstinence programs cannot work alone or at all. They claim that people cannot change their behaviour, while at the same time they call for exactly that -- for people to use condoms consistently and correctly every time they engage in sexual activity. If society is going to seek to modify conduct, then would it not be better and more effective to encourage behaviours such as chastity and abstinence that eliminate the risk of disease while promoting human dignity and a healthy life in all dimensions, rather than behaviours that do not eradicate the risk of disease and lull people into a false sense of security?

  14. The Church’s teaching on HIV/AIDS prevention is arguably a sign of contradiction in the world today. Yet our Lord promises us “by your perseverance, you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21:19) Our moral and social teachings are part of the Good News through which God leads us to the fullness of life.

  15. Our Holy Father states that “the battle against AIDS ought to be everyone’s battle.”(10) We who profess faith in the Risen Christ must take on this challenge of responding to one of the more horrible and intractable human catastrophes of modern times with authentic values, true compassion and greater responsibility.

  16. St. Paul’s words to the Romans apply to our own local Church, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) All of us are called not to conform to the world’s view of sexuality and HIV/AIDS, but to be transformed by God’s truth so that we might transform the world.

  17. In this Easter season, as our local Church marks a new year in the history of our salvation, let us also mark a new beginning in our response to the challenge of HIV/AIDS. I ask our clergy, theologians, catechists, teachers, lay leaders and lay ministers to proclaim the Church’s teaching in their respective roles and vocations. None of us should present this teaching as a burden, but as the gift that it truly is. All of us should be convinced and convincing in this matter. Our lives, our work and our witness must testify to the fullness of life in Jesus Christ.

  18. In our own local Church of Washington, let us commit ourselves to providing a more loving and compassionate response to the reality of HIV/AIDS, not only by caring for those infected and affected by the disease, but also by promoting the truth about human sexuality.

  19. We need to promote the availability of early testing and intervention to stop further infection and death. We do this from a moral and medical perspective that places a premium on values that truly respect the life and dignity of the person. We urge people at risk to be tested, to receive their test results and to receive counselling and assistance regardless of their diagnosis. Those who receive a positive diagnosis should get the necessary support and solidarity to live with the virus and/or disease, and to prevent placing others at risk of infection. Those with a negative diagnosis must be helped to appreciate and accept new behaviours that truly protect their lives by preserving true dignity, protecting physical and spiritual integrity and promoting true responsibility.

  20. We recognize that our solidarity with our brothers and sisters throughout the world has a special significance in this local Church, here in the home of our nation’s capital. Therefore, part of our response is to call upon our civic leaders to continue to address this crisis at national and international levels. The recent initiative of the United States government, in so far as it reflects our values, is a welcome step to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Africa, where the pandemic of HIV/AIDS has taken such a terrible toll. This important new commitment needs to be sustained over time and with adequate resources.

  21. Even beyond the context of HIV/AIDS, we affirm the right to healthcare for every person. We recognize that many nations lack basic medicines to fight many diseases, much less the more costly drugs to combat HIV infection and, therefore, we call upon our government and other governments to help ensure that the appropriate medicine is accessible, affordable and available to all. We stand in solidarity with the Holy See as it calls for pharmaceutical companies to work together to overcome the burdens of costly research and development so these urgently needed drugs may be available at affordable prices(11) and to urge nations to build stronger healthcare infrastructures, to provide emergency relief assistance and to work to eliminate poverty and other factors(12) that contribute to HIV infection. Agencies that work on HIV/AIDS care and prevention have noted these factors may include sexual violence and exploitation of women, stigma, silence and fear about the disease, deterioration of the family unit, war, starvation and malnutrition, international debt and unjust political, social and economic structures.

  22. Above all, we entrust these efforts to our Heavenly Father so that our service to our brothers and sisters living with HIV/AIDS might be a witness to the life and love of Jesus Christ, His Son. We ask all health care professionals and service providers to reflect their love for life with a true respect for the sacred dignity and integrity of the human person in view of the Church’s teachings and we pray that medical researchers and scientists may find, with God’s help, a cure for HIV/AIDS as soon as possible. Finally, we beg God our Father that all our brothers and sisters living with HIV/AIDS, together with their families and friends, may be delivered from this terrible scourge and come to find a true peace and deep happiness in the fullness of life which Jesus promises to all of us who have put our trust in the living God.



Theodore Cardinal McCarrick

Feast of the Divine Mercy, 2003



FOOTNOTES

_________________________________________________

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, Year-End Edition, Volume 13 (Number 2), table 2.

2 Ibid.

3 Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, AIDS Administration, “Maryland HIV/AIDS Epidemiological Profile, Second Quarter – Data reported through June 30, 2002.”

4 United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS/World Health Organization, “AIDS Epidemic Update,” December 2002, p. 17.

5 John Paul II, Encyclical letter Sollicitudo rei socialis, December 30, 1987, 38: AAS 80 (1988) 564-566; English translation in Origins 17 (1988) 654.

6 United Nations General Assembly, Special Session on HIV/AIDS, June 27, 2001, Intervention of Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council on Pastoral Health Care.

7 Pontifical Council on Pastoral Health Care, XVII International Conference, “The Identity of Catholic Health Care Institutions,” Rome, November 7, 2002.

8 Information provided by Catholic Relief Services, December 2002.

9 Saint Thomas Aquinas, In divinis nominibus, 4, 4.

10 John Paul II, Apostolic post-synodal exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, September 14, 1995, 116: AAS 88 (1996) 70; English translation in Origins 25 (1995) 270.

11 World Trade Organization, Plenary Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, Genoa, June 20, 2001, Intervention by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the World Trade Organization.

12 United Nations General Assembly, Special Session on HIV/AIDS, June 27, 2001, Intervention of Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council on Pastoral Health Care.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

The following teaching resources are excellent, though not exhaustive, in understanding the Catholic faith with respect to human life and human love:

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition (Washington, D.C.: USCC, 1997). John Paul II, Encyclical letter Veritatis splendor, August 6, 1993; AAS 85 (1993) 1133 1228; English translation in Origins 23 (1993) 297-334.

John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium vitae, The Gospel of Life, March 25, 1995; AAS 87 (1995) 401-522; English translation in Origins 24 (1995) 689-727.

John Paul II, Apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, on the role of the Christian family in the modern world, November 22, 1981; AAS 73 (1981) 81-191; English translation in Origins 11 (1981) 437-468.

John Paul II, Apostolic letter Salvifici doloris, on the Christian meaning of human suffering, February 11, 1984; AAS 76 (1984) 201-250; English translation in Origins 13 (1984) 609-624.

John Paul II, Apostolic letter Dolentium humanum, to establish the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Health Care, February 11, 1985; AAS 77 (1985) 457-461; English summary in Origins 14 (1985) 588.

John Paul II, Theology of the Body According to John Paul II: Human Love in the Divine Plan (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1997).

Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II), Love and Responsibility (New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1981; repr. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994, 1996).

Paul VI, Encyclical letter Humanae vitae, on the regulation of birth, July 25, 1968; AAS 60 (1968) 481-503.

Congregation for Catholic Education, Educational Guidance in Human Love: Outlines for Sex Education, November 1, 1983; L’Osservatore Romano, February 12, 1983.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Homosexualitas problema, on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, October 1, 1986; AAS 79 (1987) 543-554; English translation in Origins 16 (1986) 377-382.

Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, December 29, 1975; AAS 68 (1976) 77-96; English translation in Origins 5 (1976) 485-494.

Pontifical Council for the Family, From Despair to Hope: Family and Drug Addiction (Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1992).

Pontifical Council for the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family, November 21, 1995; English translation in Origins 25 (1996) 529-552.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, To Live in Christ Jesus: A Pastoral Reflection on the Moral Life, November 11, 1976.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Statement on School-Based Clinics, November 18, 1987.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, New Slavery, New Freedom: A Pastoral Message on Substance Abuse, 1990.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Human Sexuality: A Catholic Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning, 1991.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Communities of Hope: Parishes and Substance Abuse, 1991.

The Way Forward (Catholic Bishops of Zambia) 01/12/02

Excerpts from “THE WAY FORWARD” statement by the Catholic Bishops of Zambia, World AIDS Day 2002

8.   As Christians and church leaders, we do not wish to trivialize the many initiatives in the prevention of HIV/AIDS. However, we state very emphatically that the much talked about condom is not the answer to eradicating HIV/AIDS. At best using condoms during sexual intercourse can lower the chances of getting AIDS. The condom can give people false security; but condoms are not always available and reliable. Sex with an infected person always exposes one to infection: with or without a condom risky sexual behaviour certainly kills sooner or later. The condom is immoral and destructive of the dignity of a person. “Safe sex” or “ protected sex” means abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage. This is the teaching of Scripture. Many generations of people before us have protected themselves totally from STD infections or undesired pregnancies through abstinence.”
9. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is not merely a medical or health problem. It is also fundamentally a behavioural problem. We should not only treat the symptoms; we should endeavour to re move the causes. The greatest factor in the reduction of HIV/AIDS infection in Uganda and Senegal was the process of Behaviour Change in attitudes, lifestyle and practice. It is the youth above all who have changed in behaviour in those countries. Youths have postponed sexual activity until marriage. In Senegal the age of marriage has been increased. While in Uganda the programme of “Youth Alive” and “Education For Life”, a process of behavioural change, have contributed in no small way to reducing infection. A most recent report
of the Population Division of the U.N.’s Department for Economic and Social Affairs admits that mass distribution of condoms, though aggressively promoted by governments, was failing to provide a solution to the African pandemic. Its finding revealed that the only real major change was a shift toward monogamy. It also noted the most frequently cited change entailed confining sexual activity to one partner. Africa has spoken. It has begun to accept that the best way forward is abstinence before marriage and fidelity to one’s spouse. The biblical teaching of chastity or purity is still the best way of eradicating HIV/AIDS completely. No one dies of “abstinence” or “purity”. Abstinence does not kill and does not cost money. Risky sexual behaviour, with or without a condom, certainly kills sooner or later. As Church leaders we call for healthy and responsible behaviour of all.....”

HIV/AIDS; Values, Responses and Practices - A Catholic Institute for International Relations Statement. 08/11/02

The situation
In our Africa programmes we are working in countries - Zimbabwe and Namibia -where incidence of HIV is very high. In Zimbabwe, the estimated life expectancy is 37. It is estimated that every week 2,000 people die in Zimbabwe from AIDS related illnesses. This is happening in a country where there is little access to medicine and hospital care. We cannot exaggerate just how catastrophic this pandemic is to the development of peoples and to countries as a whole. The response to the situation is far from simple. We also work in other countries where the prevalence of HIV is not so high (for instance 1% in Somaliland) but this is a reason to work on the issue (especially in prevention) rather than not.

For CIIR, HIV/AIDS is a fundamental issue for development and must be considered in relation to other key development issues - poverty, the role of women, education and health.The complexity of the issue

  • Addressing HIV is a complex question. It requires activity at a number of levels which includes care and support, information and awareness, openness and understanding.
  • Strategies at individual, community and society levels are required to change attitudes and behaviour to reduce risk and limit transmission of infection.
  • Changing sexual behaviour is a vital part, but only a part of the complexity of issues around HIV. Acknowledgement needs to be made of the impact of poverty on HIV and AIDS and on the ability to tackle it.
  • Tackling the ignorance and stigma which leads to discrimination is also vital, so accurate information is essential as well as effective mechanisms for care.
  • HIV has to be seen within the context of the country concerned. This requires culturally sensitive responses and an understanding of the impact of poverty and cultural elements. Recognising different levels of power between men and women is also a vital consideration.

Many discussions about HIV focus on the mechanics - the drugs or the condoms. When the reality of the epidemic is of people dying, it is important to consider all aspects of the debate. Talking only about condoms limits the debate and misses so much of the picture.

CIIR's position

  • Tackling HIV requires a holistic approach - and this means recognising all the options available for changing behaviour and acting responsibly. Our work supports a variety of projects reflecting the wide-ranging way in which addressing HIV needs to be seen.
  • It is vital that people have access to information that is correct and are therefore able to make their own decisions. There is much misleading information around.
  • CIIR supports a number of specialist development workers in HIV/AIDS and encourages all other development workers to seek ways of integrating HIV/AIDS into their work with partner organisations.
  • We stand against any form of discrimination or prejudice against those who are HIV+ or suffering from AIDS.
  • CIIR believes that condoms are one important element in any strategy to prevent sexual transmission of HIV and encourages an informed debate about their use - in both Christian and Muslim societies.
  • We support the use of anti-retroviral treatments (ART), especially in reducing mother to child transmissions. However ART has to go hand-in-hand with other elements to encourage prevention such as education and information and strengthened health care structures.
  • CIIR is engaging with organisations and communities, policy makers and religious leaders in encouraging a dialogue and a better understanding of the issue. A key part of this is creating an environment where experiences and reflections can be exchanged.

The social mission of the Catholic Church

  • In seeking to bring about a more just and equitable world (what many Christians would describe as the reign of God) it is vital to tackle issues of poverty, access to health and education resources as well as basic provisions, and unequal power relations - especially those between women and men.
  • CIIR contributes to this social mission by working with people of all faiths and none in a respectful partnership. CIIR is not an official agency of the Catholic Church.

CIIR and the teaching of Catholic Church

  • In cases of a pandemic such as HIV/AIDS the issue is about life or death. Any moral analysis has to go beyond personal sexual relations and understand the wider context of the life and death challenges and the unjust power relations between men and women.
  • The Church insists that pastoral care and support of people with HIV/AIDS must be done without judgement or prejudice. Of course, CIIR supports this.
  • CIIR notes that sexual responsibility, fidelity and chastity are values in Church teaching which are important elements in a holistic approach to tackling HIV. Respect within relationships and mutual responsibility both contribute to greater equality, assisting in reducing HIV infection.
  • The concern about church teaching on condom use has moved the focus of the debate away from these underpinning values and fails to recognise power and gender inequalities.
  • CIIR recognises that in certain circumstances the use of condoms is a life-saving option. An informed use of condoms should not be discounted.
  • We, like many others, do not consider this position to be counter to Church teaching. There is a plurality of views from church leaders and thinkers about the role of condoms and CIIR welcomes the debate. Examples include:
  1. Church teaching includes an acceptance of a secondary effect (for instance in the use of the contraceptive pill to regulate menstrual cycles although also having a contraceptive effect is acceptable).
  2. Church teaching includes the concept of the lesser of two evils (in this instance death/condom use).

Working with other faiths

  • Both Christian and Islamic teaching have a strong emphasis on caring for the sick and this is an important starting point in joint work on HIV.
  • Our experience in the Islamic countries of Somaliland and Yemen show that religious leaders have a vital role in education, awareness raising and tackling discrimination in addressing HIV and AIDS among their communities.

Catholic Bishops of Chad Statement on AIDS 01/10/02

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
  1. For nearly twenty years, AIDS is in our mist. This epidemic has now spread in the whole world and results in a serious global crisis. Statistics from all over the world are terrifying indeed and enable us to really assess the dramatic evolution of the pandemic. Thus, since it was described in the early 80s, it is reported that among other terrible consequences, HIV/AIDS has already claimed the lives of 40 million people around the world, of which 70 to 75% in Africa South of the Sahara where health structures are inadequate everywhere. In Chad, the studies and the observations made since the reporting of two cases in 1986 give obvious indications that the pandemic is spreading. According to statistics, 13,000 cases exist in our country, but that is only the visible aspect of a more disturbing situation. There is every evidence that HIV/AIDS is spreading in our country. Neither a vaccine nor an appropriate drug allows us presently to hope for the eradication of this deadly pandemic in the near future.
  2. The social impact of HIV/AIDS is very great today. Fear and mistrust are rampant among spouses; the youth which is the spearhead of the nation, the civil servants, the senior officials who were trained at the cost of many sacrifices, are dying. AIDS goes to the extent of exterminating whole generations and annihilating decades of progress. People even talk of the “corridor of death” represented by the Leré, Pala, Kélo, Moundou, Bébéja, Doba, Koura, Sarh and Sido main section with all its ramifications. What is being done face to this situation?
  3. Despite all the efforts undertaken in our country to fight against AIDS, we have to acknowledge that we have failed since the pandemic is still spreading. How can we explain such a failure?
  4. Fight and information campaigns of every kind have been conducted. However, such campaigns are often conducted with a lot of money and without reflection and a strong will to integrate the cultural and religious values of our country. A lot of condoms are being distributed indiscriminately, sometimes even to children under 10 years of age, with the belief that that is going to protect the population. These campaigns sometimes misinform more than they inform. Some publicity slogans posted in our cities go a long way to prove this. People seem to try to solve the AIDS problem through technical means, hence the failure of such campaigns.
  5. AIDS is indeed a medical problem. Yet it should also be recognized that AIDS also raises a moral and spiritual problem. The Church has something to say as it considers itself as “mother and educator”. It is in this capacity that we, the Bishops of Chad, resolve to commit ourselves with all the Christian communities and all the people of goodwill, to unrelentlessly fight against AIDS, a fight that vows deep respect to human beings.
  6. Following Vatican II Council, we can say this: “The joys and hopes, the sadness and the anxiety of the men of the present times, the poor above all and all those who suffer, are also the joys, the hopes, the sadness and the anguish of the disciples of Christ, and there is nothing really human that does not echo in their heart. The Christian community therefore identifies itself as being really and intimately in solidarity with the human race and its history”.
  7. As a matter of fact, during His ministry, Jesus particularly felt for the poor, the excluded from the society. In His time, lepers were excluded from the society until they were healed. Yet, Jesus touched the lepers, He healed them and reinstated them within their communities. He is for us a fundamental reference.
  8. In the Gospel, Jesus does not judge, He does not condemn anybody. On the contrary, He gets near the people and shows them love. He suffers with those who suffer. We constantly see Him getting near the sick, touching them, curing them, healing many of them, physically, morally and spiritually. He purifies the leper as we have said, He heals the blind, and the deaf and dumb, and the invalid woman. He delivers the captives… He urges His disciples to do like Him: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”
  9. How can we, together, following the example of Christ, fight against this evil that disfigures the man who is loved by God and is created in God’s image and in His resemblance? We sometimes hear people say that AIDS is a punishment from God. This belief sometimes prompts us to point fingers at people, to stigmatise, to isolate our brothers and sisters who suffer from AIDS. Many people say that they are sick “through their own fault”, or because they have sinned. In the Gospel of John, to a question put to Him on the origin of evil concerning a person who was born blind, Jesus answers: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…” Indeed, God loves the man to the extent that He cannot wish his death. God cannot contradict His act of love. He cannot call Himself Love and at the same time want the suffering and the death of the man …! AIDS is not therefore a punishment from God.
I. THE CHURCH, GOD’S PEOPLE, FACE TO AIDS
  1. The identity of a Christian is to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world”. AIDS has taken away the joy of life from many of our fellow countrymen: those who are HIV positive, AIDS patients, orphans and families. AIDS has been an opportunity to disseminate a number of lies, of counter values. The true fight against AIDS must be fought in truth, foresight and in a spirit of love.
Sexuality is a blessing and a gift from God
  1. God created man and woman in His image, out of love. The sexual difference appears in the Bible as the height of the creation as God had wanted it to be. And this sexual difference is portrayed in all the dimensions of human beings. If well managed, this sexuality can make us very happy: the joy of giving oneself to the other in marriage, the joy of bearing children, the joy of friendship, of exchanges, of ordinary encounters. In a nutshell, we know that others, especially those from the other sex, are indispensable to us and they help us evolve in our ways of thinking, reflecting and acting. Sexuality therefore participates in our fulfilment as men and women. The Church looks positively on sexuality that it views as a task to accomplish, a responsibility to assume. For these reasons, the Church says NO to a culture of sexual disorders or loose morals. How indeed could we foresee a responsible future for these young girls and young boys if our society does not educate them so that they know what makes a man grow and fulfil himself?
  2. The Catholic Church and the Pope, are often blamed for being against the use of the condom. It should be recalled that the role of the Church is not to promote the use of the condom but rather conjugal fidelity and chastity, in one word, responsible sexuality. Because it considers itself as “mother and educator”, the Church has to educate its daughters and sons to behave in a responsible way and exercise self-control. It is our duty to say that there are better means than the condom to protect oneself against AIDS: conjugal fidelity, the fact of having only one partner, to respect him/her, the fact of learning to be capable of expressing true love. We are in favour of the means that respect human dignity and honour the society. We therefore refuse, given our mission, to enter that logic according to which, the immediate answer to the dramatic question about AIDS is: “the condom”.
  3. With regard to the condom, the Church wishes to recall here, through our Bishops, that its use is subjected to the normal moral rules as for the other human acts. The ultimate moral rule is our conscience. It is up to each and every one of us to train one’s conscience and to assume one’s responsibility according to the situation in which one finds oneself. Because “no one is bound to do the impossible”, spouses cannot be asked to abstain from sexual intercourse; we therefore understand that a person, through love, may be led to use the condom to protect himself/herself or to protect his/her partner. But everybody must understand that the condom does not provide 100% protection and that it does not ultimately solve the real problems raised by AIDS.
  4. We are saying with Pope John Paul II that the Church must encourage “a respectful prevention of the dignity of the human being and of its transcendent destiny. The Church is convinced that, if there is no recourse to the sense of moral responsibility and to the reaffirmation of fundamental moral values, any programme of prevention based on information alone will be ineffective and will even yield a contrary effect”
  5. We are also convinced that AIDS will disappear one day or that it will be under the total control of the man. What would be serious is for us to blindly turn a deaf ear to our conscience by robbing everything of its excitement to the extent of forgetting that were meant to grow up in liberty and freedom.
Every Christian has a duty with regard to information and prevention
  1. Ignorance with regard to AIDS is a real obstacle to the fight against this pandemic. The danger is that information and prevention are really urgent. Prevention is partially linked to information since many people do not yet believe that AIDS is a reality. It is said to be a comedy by the Whites! We urge the faithful to open their eyes and look around themselves: our cemeteries are getting overcrowded at an unusual rate, many men and women are lying down, waiting to die, the number of orphans, widows and widowers is constantly increasing. The reality about AIDS can no longer be denied. Insisting in denying it would be a sin for us Christians, an obstacle to the efforts undertaken by the international community. As leper in the past, AIDS should stop being a taboo.
  2. We want to urge you, dear Brothers and Sisters, to join this effort through information and prevention. That is what some people rightly call, “the social vaccine”. All information means must be made available to grassroots Church communities so that AIDS may be better known to be better fought against. Efforts will be undertaken to make information on AIDS, true information, be accessible to all.
  3. Our so powerful world has lost the sense of values. People increasingly insist on what is not constructive, in what belittles man instead of upholding him: the virtues on which so many generations have built on are no longer a reference for today’s societies. AIDS prevention must be achieved through a healthy and responsible education. In this respect, people will have to rehabilitate the moral conscience. In the Dioceses of Chad, the Church is proposing training and reflection on the programmes for education on life and love “EVA”. People must stop considering sexuality as a taboo. This programme enables to promote a coherent sexual and family education.
  4. The Bishops are urging each and everyone to take these information very seriously and to disseminate them as soon as possible. The fact of becoming aware that it is urgent to change one’s behaviour will only be possible through accurate information and active prevention. Both information and prevention must be done in the respect of human dignity.
Every Christian is called upon to behave in a responsible manner
  1. “Chose life and not death”, that is what the Word of God teaches us. We wish to tell you, our Christian Brothers and Sisters that “the current epidemic is an opportunity for each and every one of us to question one’s own behaviour. Our society has easily accepted and even encouraged short-lived encounters and the experience of sexuality without conjugal or parental commitment. We would fail in our mission if we kept silent face to the spread of sexual behaviours which distort the real meaning of sexuality and increase the risks of the epidemic”.
  2. There are many ways by which AIDS can be transmitted, even though, in our country, we know that it is usually transmitted through sexual intercourse. Many people are wondering whether they are carrying AIDS within themselves. We are urging them to be true to themselves, for their own sake and for the sake of other people, by going for AIDS screening. This is a courageous and responsible act that sets people free, especially when it comes to saving other peoples’ lives.
  3. Those who know that they are HIV positive must take precautions to avoid contaminating their partners. We hear with a lot of sadness that AIDS patients do not want to die alone and that they consciously spread the disease around them. That is a criminal and odious act that has to be denounced. Such people are called upon to conversion and a radical change of behaviour.
Human and spiritual guidance of the sick
  1. “Human life, even in weakness and suffering, is always a wonderful gift from the Merciful God”, says Pope John Paul II. We, your Bishops, solemnly reaffirm with the Pope that the Catholic Church is not indifferent to any human suffering. It cannot therefore be indifferent today to those who suffer from AIDS, to the situation of this new category of sick people. They too must be considered as brothers and sisters whose human condition calls for a special form of solidarity and assistance”.
  2. The congregation of the Church will continue to play the role assigned to them by taking care of those who suffer, as Jesus has taught His disciples to do so. We urge our brothers and sisters to be close to all those who are abandoned, neglected, isolated because they suffer from AIDS. Before falling sick, they are first of all our brothers and sisters, they are sons and daughters of God. “The Church loves all those that human weakness afflicts, all the more so, in the poor, it recognizes the image of the poor and suffering Christ, it strives to alleviate their miseries, and in them it is Christ it wants to serve”. Face to all the above, what can we do, concretely?
II. THE BISHOPS’ RECOMMENDATIONS
  1. The current situation no longer allows us to remain at the level of isolated initiatives. We must act now, all together. That is why we, the Bshops of Chad, are appealing :
To public authorities, international institutions, NGOs and various associations
  1. The Church welcomes all the efforts undertaken by the different partners in the fight against AIDS and particularly the commendable initiative of the setting up of a national programme on the fight against AIDS and the setting up of the UNAIDS thematic group. We however recall that an outright and effective campaign cannot be launched for the fight against AIDS while putting aside ethical and cultural issues. It is urgent for public authorities to take into account those two dimensions; otherwise the efforts undertaken will never achieve their goal. Towards this end, we urge public authorities to act at the educational level in schools, grammar schools, on the basis of an educational curriculum that includes the concerns of the various religious communities. Let clinics and welfare centres also be educational environments that give pride of place to men and women.
  2. It is urgent for the State to work in conjunction with specialized bodies in order to make available, at a low cost, drugs able to cure our brothers and sisters who suffer from AIDS, and ensure that such drugs are accessible to all, to the poor as well to the rich.
To couples and families
  1. The essential mission entrusted with couples is to transmit life. A fertility that has to be fulfilled in fidelity. We urge couples to abstain from being disturbed by the illusions of our modern world. This covenant of love is sealed in marriage and called to grow every day until it is rooted in the Love that Christ shows to His Church. If one of the spouses happens to fall sick, he/she will need his/her partner to better fight against the disease. This is not the appropriate time to abandon him/her, but on the contrary to show him / her affection and show him/her that he/she is loved, despite his/her disease. Both of them know, through the Sacrament of marriage that links them to one another, that they must respect and assist one another throughout their life, “in happiness and in woe”.
  2. We are stressing fidelity to which all those who get married commit themselves. It is the manifestation of mutual trust. A disorderly life is a risky life. How many families and couples experience conjugal sexual intercourse with fear. Only fidelity in love and dialogue can overcome this lack of mutual confidence.
  3. Parents must also ensure true education of their children to life and to love, to the respect of their own body and that of others. Instead of distributing condoms to their children, they should rather address sexuality issues with them. Moreover, they should remember that they must set the good example themselves to better impact on them. To this end, the EVA programme is particularly recommended.
  4. Many families are affected by AIDS. Sometimes, they get divided because one of the members falls sick: judgment on his/her behaviour, rejection, fear. We wish to appeal to families: do not allow AIDS to divide you! Remain united couples and families that comfort and assist one another, choosing to live with forgiveness, mutual respect and love rather than with division, suspicion, fear and hatred.
To the youth
  1. Statistics show that the youth is the age group most affected by AIDS. The threat on the young generations must call our attention and make us commit ourselves according to Pope John Paul’s remarks. As a matter of fact, humanly speaking, the future of the world depends on the youth, and experience teaches that the only way to predict the future is to prepare it.
  2. The youth must reflect on their future as adults. They have a lot of potential, energy and generosity to succeed in the challenges to be met. We remind you that you should not rob the sexual act of its excitement. Virginity is considered as a virtue in our cultural and religious traditions. To marry a virgin is an honour for both families. Why not maintain this beautiful custom! Young people do not let your conscience be invaded by what is not constructive for a man. “Do not let yourselves be fooled by the words of those who put ridicule on chastity or on your capacity to control yourselves”. The future of the society depends on the physical and moral health of the youth, the family, the Church and the country. The victory on HIV/AIDS will be achieved through you, young people. We have confidence in you. Have confidence in your future and build it as from today on long-standing values.
To Health staff members
  1. We duly appreciate the work done by health staff members and we commend the nobleness of their profession which is often exposed to diseases. We urge health staff members to treat HIV/AIDS patients with the same respect and the same attention as they do for any other patient. In him/her, it is the image of the suffering Christ that they must serve.
  2. We also urge health staff members to acquire the skills required to cure AIDS patients, through adequate training sessions. Health workers also have the duty to use preventive measures for their own protection as well as that of their patients.
  3. As far as they will be able to achieve it, they will pay attention to the needs and difficulties of the patients trusted to them, providing them with relief and comfort through their care and presence.
  4. Health staff members, better trained than others in this area, will be able to assist in AIDS screening, in training, informing and educating people towards a greater hope. A new era seems to open with the introduction on the market of more adequate drugs, and at a lower cost: the antiretroviral. Health staff members should be eager to collaborate in any programme aimed at facilitating access of these drugs to all patients. We count on the duty consciousness of each health agent, on his/her dedication to the service of sick people. We also count on the respect of human and religious values for the latter are often neglected by some programmes that do not always promote life.
To AIDS patients and HIV positive individuals
  1. We remind AIDS patients and HIV positive people who are our brothers and sisters in Christ that they have their place within the Church and that the latter welcomes them fully and unconditionally. We recall this invitation made by Jesus: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.
  2. Discouragement often leads to attitudes of revenge or to suicidal behaviours. We reiterate to AIDS patients: Take up courage, do not despair, you are not alone; we are fighting by your side. Maintain hope and find support in your faith to move towards the Living God who wants you to be happy. We must try to live in faith the hardships that come our way. That might be an opportunity to come near Christ, to learn to live with Him who suffered and who died for our salvation.
  3. Face to AIDS, one is tempted to isolate oneself, to keep silent or to put the blame on others. One believes to be a victim of bad luck/omen, witchcraft, poisoning. It would be fairer and more honest to accept one’s disease, not to feel guilty and to continue to live in serenity and positively, namely within the framework of an appropriate medical and spiritual guidance.
  4. Yes, brother/sister who have AIDS, do not fear, let Christ look at you for He is your brother and He loves you personally. Never forget that crazy love the Bible tells us about: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you”.
To our brothers of other religious denominations
  1.  We share the same ideal: that life is a gift from God, which we must respect and promote. Since AIDS is an obstacle to life, let us together commit ourselves to fighting against that pandemic for the safeguard, not only of our communities and our country, but also of the values that we have in common.
To all men and women of goodwill
  1. We urge all the citizens of this country to unite their moral and spiritual forces, their wisdom, their cultural and religious resources and their prayers to fight together against this great scourge called AIDS. The extent of the pandemic calls for a pooling of means and actions with all those who strive to achieve the same goal. Initiatives should go beyond the Church environment and reach out to the whole population irrespective of ethnic groups and religions.
  2. We encourage all the initiatives that work towards human greatness and dignity. They can truly help the whole country to “chose life”.
To Christians, religious people and priests
  1. The Church, God’s family that is in Chad, is determined to fight against the spread of AIDS. We remind the lay people, religious people and priests that in the name of our baptism, we have to feel all concerned. The Church, “has hope in humankind”, has received the mission to reveal to all men the love and care of the Father through Jesus Christ His Son. With Him, we have to pay special attention to all the miseries of mankind: material, physical, moral and spiritual.
  2. We are appealing to the faithful, community leaders and pastors at all levels to actively commit themselves to this struggle against evil and for life. They should become the first actors to meet this challenge set by the humankind: to overcome AIDS and its damaging effects.
  3. The love of Christ is prompting us to experience true love that is dedication, service, self-respect and respect of others, forgiveness, dialogue, opening up to life... The Lord gives us the grace to experience all this by the side of our sick people, the HIV/positive patients, the widows and widowers, the orphans and all those who tend to despair. With Jesus Christ, we are urged to fight against evil in the world.
CONCLUSION
  1. By giving us His Son Jesus, God makes Himself present and active in the world. Jesus has experienced the human condition, the joys, the sufferings and the hopes of men. He knows them. His sufferings, and also the weight of our sins and its consequences, Jesus carried them on the Cross. By suffering on the Cross and by suffering Himself totally for us, He has opened the door of our salvation for us. That is the greatest expression of His love for men: “Through His sufferings, we are healed” says Saint Peter.
  2. Christian communities, associations and movements must support each other in faith, in prayer and action. For “if God has loved us this much, we should also love one another likewise”and it is through the love we shall have for one another that people will acknowledge that we are Christians. Let us therefore train in that love that goes beyond all frontiers and that makes each man and woman experience more happiness and freedom.
And if this disease called AIDS compels us to change our behaviours and to instead disseminate more love around us, it will be a revolution! The true revolution, the one that builds “the civilization of love” as John Paul II usually says. AIDS is not a curse from God, but it can become a means of conversion that will draw us near Him, to our greatest joy.

A Message of Hope from the Catholic Bishops. 30/07/01

A Message of Hope from the Catholic Bishops to the People of God in South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland made on 30 July 2001 at St Peters' Seminary, Pretoria.

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Message Of John Paul II To The Secretary-General Of The United Nations Organization 25/06/01

To His Excellency Mr Kofi Annan
Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization
The holding of a Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on 25-27 June to examine the various aspects of the HIV/AIDS problem is a most opportune initiative. To you and to all the delegations present I send my best wishes, in the hope that your deliberations will mark a decisive step in the struggle against the disease.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is undoubtedly one of the major catastrophes of our time, especially in Africa. It is not only a health problem, since the disease has tragic consequences for the social, economic and political life of peoples.
I welcome the efforts presently being made at the national, regional and international level to face this challenge through the implementation of a plan of action aimed at prevention and treatment of the disease. Your announcement that a World “AIDS and Health” Fund will be set up in the near future gives hope to all. It is my sincere wish that the initial favourable reactions will quickly find practical expression in effective support.
The daunting spread of HIV/AIDS is one aspect of a social context marked by a serious crisis of values. In this area, as in others, the international community cannot ignore its moral responsibility.
On the contrary, in the fight against the epidemic, the international community should draw its inspiration from a constructive vision of human dignity and focus its attention on young people, by helping them to attain responsible emotional maturity.
The Catholic Church, through her Magisterium and her commitment to the victims of HIV/AIDS, continues to affirm the sacred value of life. Her efforts with regard to prevention and assistance to those affected, often in cooperation with the institutions of the United Nations, are in keeping with her mission of love and service to the lives of all, from conception to natural death.
Two current problems: transmission from mother to child and lack of access to medical care I am particularly concerned about two problems, which I am sure will be treated with serious attention during the debates of the Special Session.
The transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child is an extremely distressing problem. While in developed countries there has been success in noticeably reducing the number of children born with the virus, thanks to suitable treatment, in developing countries, particularly in Africa, those who come into the world with the disease are very numerous and this is a cause of great suffering for families and the community.
When we add to this gloomy picture the distress of the orphans of parents who have died from AIDS, we are faced with a situation to which the international community cannot fail to respond.
The second problem is that of access of AIDS patients to medical care, and as far as possible, to antiretroviral treatment. We know that the prices of these medicines are excessively high, sometimes even exorbitant, in relation to the resources of the citizens of the poorest countries. The problem includes various economic and legal aspects, among which are certain interpretations of the right to intellectual property.
In this regard, it seems appropriate to recall what the Second Vatican Council emphasized regarding the common destination of the world’s goods, which I mentioned in my Encyclical Centesimus Annus: “Of its nature private property also has a social function which is based on the law of the common purpose of goods” (Gaudium et Spes, 7,1; cf. Centesimus Annus, 30). On account of this social mortgage, included in international law by the affirmation, among other things, of every individual’s right to health, I ask the rich countries to respond to the needs of HIV/AIDS patients in poorer countries with all available means, so that those men and women afflicted in body and soul will be able to have access to the medicines they need to treat themselves.
I cannot end this message without thanking the scientists and researchers of the whole world for their efforts to find treatments for this terrible illness. My gratitude also goes to health-care professionals and volunteers for the love and competence which they demonstrate in the human, religious and medical assistance they give to their brothers and sisters.
Upon all engaged in the struggle against HIV/AIDS, particularly those living with the disease and their families, as well as upon all taking part in the Special Session, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God.

Statement from the Bishops’ Conference, the Church of Norway. 04/01

Statement from the Bishops’ Conference, The Church of Norway - April 2001. The global HIV/AIDS catastrophe.

 A global catastrophe is currently striking individuals, communities and nations.

Men carry a great responsibility. Women and young girls are particularly vulnerable. In Africa alone about ten million children have become orphans. Countries that were already losers in the economic and social development of the world community have been hardest hit. 

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is spreading throughout the world and within the churches. In Africa this is the most widespread catastrophe that has struck the continent in recent times. It is causing untold human suffering, and in some countries it is threatening the whole of society with collapse. The situation is also extremely serious in the Caribbean, in eastern Europe and in southeast Asia. 

There are many reasons why the pandemic is spreading so quickly. Large groups of people are migrating in order to find work, or because of wars and conflicts. Many people do not know how the virus spreads or how to protect themselves against it. The use of condoms, which reduces the spread of HIV/AIDS, is often a taboo issue, and for a great number of people condoms are unavailable. Irresponsible sexual behaviour, suppressing the facts about the pandemic and social isolation of the people infected, all make the situation especially difficult. 

In our own country, too, there is a lack of openness about the disease and HIV victims are also suffering from condemnation and exclusion. As fellow human beings in the church and in the community, each one of us is being challenged to examine our own attitudes. 

For the church, it is important to keep to the principle that Christian charity commits us to support, not condemn, those who are suffering. We must help people who are infected with HIV to live openly in the community. 

The Bishops' Conference welcomes the efforts which are being made by the public authorities in many countries to stop the spread of the pandemic. The international community has, for example through the UN and the WHO, taken on the challenge in a commendable way. Norway has a sizeable task, in terms of both economic resources and professional humanitarian expertise. 

The Bishops' Conference welcomes the cooperation that has been established through the government's "Forum for aids and development", in which the church is represented along with the trade union movement, business and industry, NGOs, the media, research institutions, sport and culture, and which aims to change attitudes and to alleviate acute distress. In long-term strategies at the national and international levels, the church and other religious communities must accept their responsibility for dealing with the HIV/AIDS pandemic. 

The Bishops' Conference wishes to point to the following current challenges:

  • the need for more investment in the development of medicines and vaccines that the poor can afford
  • making treatment cheaper and more accessible
  • developing information and attitude-forming measures specifically aimed at children and young people
  • ensuring that the churches combat violence and sexual abuse
  • ensuring that the churches promote joint action across religions and philosophies of life.

During the television campaign this autumn for Norwegian Church Aid, everyone in Norway can acquire more knowledge about HIV/AIDS and can give money to the work the church is doing together with others in this field. The whole population is invited to join together to help. Every available means must be mobilized to give our fellow human beings who are smitten by, or in danger of being smitten by, HIV/AIDS hope for the future. 

Together we can give them back their hope.

The Compassion Of Jesus: A Pastoral Latter on AIDS from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines 23/01/93

None of us lives for himself, and no one dies for oneself (Rom. 14:7-8). If one part suffers, all the part suffers with it… You are Christ’s body and individually parts of it (1Cor.12:26-27).
Our dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
The words of St. Paul strongly remind us that we are responsible for one another. They reverberate in the declaration of Vatican II: “The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well” (On the Church in the Modern World, no.1). More recently, the words are echoed by the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in its clarion call for solidarity (PCP- Acts and Decrees, e.g. no. 295)
Today the call for mutual caring and solidarity is more urgent than ever as we Filipinos face a threat of potentially more catastrophic proportions than volcano eruptions, floods, and conflicts. The name of this threat – the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) – or HIV-AIDS for short.
The AIDS Situation: A Pandemic
First identified in 1981, the dread disease has swiftly spread in the space of less than ten years to every continent of the world. It is truly a pandemic, ravaging millions of lives, the lives of those infected, or their families and other loved ones as well. It cuts across all geographical and cultural boundaries, all classes and ages, although the young generations are particularly hit.
While statistics from 1984 to October 1992 tell us that in the Philippines only 356 had been diagnosed as HIV infected, including 84 AIDS cases, health officials believe that the actual number is hidden behind fear of exposure and ostracism, stigma and shame.
AIDS is transmissible by exposure to HIV-infected blood through transfusions, administration of blood products, organ transplants from infected donors, use of unsterilized, HIV-contaminated needles and other equipment by drug users and in health care facilities. It can also be transmitted by an infected mother to her unborn child.
But the most common means of transmission is through promiscuous sexual behaviour.
To date, no known vaccine or cure is available to combat the disease. Those who are infected with HIV will remain infected for life. Although they may live for many years without symptoms, they will eventually develop serious illnesses which will lead to death. The grim image of the Apocalypse comes almost inexorably to mind: “I looked, and there was a pale green horse. Its rider was named death” (Rev. 6:8)
Moral Reflection and Response
It is clear that the situation demands the pastoral care of the Church. For the Church must continue the mission of Jesus. In announcing the Good News of salvation, in healing the sick, in forgiving sinners, in being compassionate with the multitude, Jesus showed what the Church must do. God’s people must be at the side of those who suffer. Especially for the needy and the suffering of today, the Church must be the compassion of Jesus.
Our ministry of compassion for the afflicted must overcome fears and prejudices. Jesus has shown us the way, through the manner in which he dealt with lepers, the ostracized, and “untouchables” of his time. “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean’” (Mk.1:41)
For us, an encounter with people infected with HIV-AIDS should be a moment of grace – an opportunity for us to be Christ’s compassionate presence to them as well as experience His presence in them.
1.      Our first attitude must be to serve and minister. Those who contract HIV-AIDS, whether by accident or by consequences of their own actions, carry with them a heavy burden: social stigmatization, ostracism, and condemnation. Let us reach out to them, welcome them, serve them, as Jesus did the sick of his time. To attend to their pain is to attend to the whole Mystical Body, to attend to Christ Himself who is the Head.
2.      To help stem the spread of this dread disease, we as a Church must collaborate with other social agencies in providing factual education about HIV-AIDS. So extensive is the popular ignorance about the disease as to encourage an irresponsible, cavalier, and casual attitude to sexual relationships. And too many are the myths surrounding it as to prevent effective pastoral care for those afflicted.
3.      Most of all, we need to recognize the moral dimension of the disease. Though medically the cause of the disease can be identified as a virus, our faith tells us that it’s the cause and the solution goes beyond the physical.
           We cannot ignore the possibility that through this pandemic, the loving Lord may be calling us, his children, to profound renewal and conversion: “for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges” (Heb.12:6; cf. 1 Cor.11:32; Prov.3:11-12). HIV-AIDS and other calamities that visit us are not necessarily the punishment of a loving and forgiving God for our personal or collective sins. But we know that Nature itself has often its own unremitting laws of reward and retribution with regard to action we take, freely or not.
4.      The moral dimension of the problem of HIV-AIDS urges us to take a sharply negative view of the condom distribution approach to the problem.
           We believe that this approach is simplistic and evasive. It leads to a false sense of complacency on the part of the State, creating an impression that an adequate solution has been arrived at. On the contrary, it simply evades and neglects the heart if the solution, namely, the formation of authentic sexual values.
           Moreover, it seeks to escape the consequences of immoral behaviour without intending to change the questionable behaviour itself. The “safe-sex” proposal would be tantamount to condoning promiscuity and sexual permissiveness and to fostering indifference to the moral demand as long as negative social and pathological consequences can be avoided.
           Furthermore, given the trend of the government’s family planning program, we have a well-founded anxiety that the drive to promote the acceptability of condom use for the prevention of HIV-AIDS infection is part of the drive to promote condom use for contraception.
For the above reasons, we strongly reprobate media advertisements that lure people with the idea of so called safe sex, through condom use. As in contraception, so also in preventing HIV-AIDS infection, condom use is not a failsafe approach.
5.      We cannot emphasize enough the necessity of holding on to our moral beliefs regarding love and human sexuality and faithfully putting them into practice. All these, in order to prevent the spread of the disease and to provide the foundations for effective and compassionate pastoral care for those afflicted.
           Among these moral beliefs are the beauty, mystery, and sacredness of God’s gift of human love. It reflects the very love of God, faithful and life-giving. This marvellous gift is also a tremendous responsibility. For sexual love must be faithful, not promiscuous. It must be committed, open to life, life-long, and not casual. This is why the full expression of human love is reserved to husband and wife within marriage.
           Monogamous fidelity and chastity within marriage – these are ethical demands, flowing from human love as gift and responsibility for the married.
           As for all those who are not married, we will not cease enjoining fidelity to the same moral beliefs. Our secularist era may scoff at them as old-fashioned. But modernity and its worldly values do not abolish the continuing validity of St. Paul’s word – “Your life is hidden with Christ in God…Put to death then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry” (1Cor.3:25).
           When one lives by faith, as all followers of Christ must, one is convinced that chastity and the refusal to engage in extra-marital sexual activity are the best protection against HIV-AIDS.
To our beloved Priests, Religious, and other faithful who have committed themselves to a life of celibacy, we say: You are a sign for others that chastity lived for the Kingdom of God and a well-integrated and ordered sexuality are not only possible, but are actually being lived.
6.      In the face of the rapidly spreading scourge of HIV-AIDS, we cannot overstate the need for a profound moral renewal of our people. This was the call of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines for the transformation of our society (PCP-II Acts and Decrees, E.G. NO. 32). This too, is our call for the radical prevention of the HIV AIDS disease. Nothing short of this can effectively respond to the deep-rooted moral cause of the problem. It is at depth a moral issue. We must not, therefore, forget the absolute imperative of moral renewal, while continuing to search for the medical solution.
Conclusion
We invite all persons of good will to be in solidarity with HIV-AIDS patients. They are our sisters and brothers. We see in their faces the suffering image of Jesus himself: “Whatever you do to the lease of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me” (cf. Mt.25:40).
As we minister to the afflicted, we proclaim to all the infinite compassion of God and the redeeming passion and death of Christ, the Saviour of all.
May our Blessed Virgin Mary whom we invoke as Mother, “Help of the Sick” and “Comfort of the Afflicted” accompany us through this passion of modern times.
For and in the name of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines,
(SGD.) CARMELO D.F. MORELOS, D.D.
President
Betania Retreta House
Tagaytay City
January 23, 1993

The Church Faced With The Challenge Of Aids: Prevention Worthy Of The Human Personand Assistance In Complete Solidarity (Catholic International Conference Of The Pontifical Council For Pastoral Assistance To Health Care Workers) 15/11/89

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
1.      It is a particularly important moment for me to meet today with all of you in this International Conference which the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers has promoted for the purpose of deepening the interdisciplinary study of the complex problems related to the threatening spread of AIDS.
In greeting you, I wish to express my heartiest congratulations for your commitment to discuss this vitally interesting subject on such a highly qualified level, and particularly, for having formulated its analysis in a broader anthropological framework, examining the entire question in the light of fundamental questions on existence: “TO LIVE: WHY?”
2.      Compared with the many other infectious diseases known by Mankind in the course of history, AIDS has by far many more profound repercussions of a moral, social, economic, juridical and structural nature not only on individual families and on neighbourhood communities, but also on Nations and on the entire community of peoples. In fact, although in differing intensity and with varied characteristics, the great majority of the world’s nations has been struck by the acquired immunodeficiency virus, and the periodic announcements of the Health Authorities indicate an increasing extension.
It is right to recognize that, from the initial stages, AIDS has provoked a serious commitment to team research directed by eminent scientists, many of whom are present here today, and to whom I wish to express my most heartfelt appreciation.
Thanks to their efforts, every day there is greater light shed upon the various aspects relative to this complex and widespread disease. In less than a decade, an important stretch of the road has been covered: molecular biology studies have nearly made known the functions of the virus, the virus-cell interactions and their consequent functional modifications. Other retroviruses have likewise been discovered, and their functions relative to AIDS and other diseases are the object of intensive study and evaluation.
3.      It is not at all daring to affirm that, once again, through the study of a dreadful disease, scientific knowledge is broadening to cover a whole area, with important advantages afforded for the treatment of other pathologies.
           And, moreover, as our times are characterized by the growing awareness that biological causes, environmental conditions, and socio-cultural components all strongly influence the development and spread of infectious diseases, particular analytical attention has been given to the way in which certain forms of interactional behaviour within particular demographic types or groups create and increase the risk of contagion from the acquired immunodeficiency virus. The reference, already well known to all, is obviously to the phenomena of drug addiction and the abuse of sexuality which leads to a process that is expansionist at its base. The positive side of this more exact knowledge is that the world population as a whole is called to assume its proper responsibility with complete awareness.
4.      Statistics indicate that it is the generation of youth which is most stricken by AIDS. This threat which hovers over the younger generations should alert everyone to personal commitment because, humanly speaking, the future of the world depends upon the future of its youth, and experience teaches that the onlyway to foresee the future is to prepare it in the present.
The threatening spread of AIDS hurls at all men a double-edged challenge which the Church also wants to meet in fulfilling her due share: I am referring to the prevention of the disease and to the health careoffered to those who suffer from it. Truly effective action in these two areas cannot be developed without looking to sustain a common effort which results from a constructive vision of the dignity of the human person and his transcendent destiny.
           The peculiar factors which have given rise to AIDS and its global extension, and also a certain way of engaging the battle against this disease reveal – as so appropriately the general theme of the Conference reminds us – a worrisome crisis of values. Certainly not far from the truth is the affirmation that, parallel to the spread of AIDS, there is a kind of immunodeficiency in existential values that cannot but be identified as a real pathology of the spirit.
5.      AIDS prevention – to be worthy of the human person and at the same time truly effective – must propose two objectives: to inform adequately and to educate for responsible maturity.
The information, diffused in so many different centres, must above all be correct and complete, beyond unfounded fears as also beyond false hopes. Personal human dignity demands that each person be helped to grow in affective maturity by means of a specific educational process. Only with information and education which lead to a transparent and joyous rediscovery of the spiritual value of self-giving love as thefundamental meaning of existence, will adolescents and youth be able to find sufficient strength to surmount high risk behaviour. Education for living one’s own sexuality in a serious and serene way and preparation for responsible and faithful love are essential aspects of this way towards full personal maturity. Prevention methods which instead promote egoistic interests, deriving from considerations that are incompatible with the fundamental values of life and love, can only end up being contradictory as well as illicit, merely circling the problem without resolving it at its roots.
           For this reason, the Church, sure interpreter of the Law of God and “expert in humanity”, is concerned not only with stating a series of “no’s” to particular behavior patterns, but above all with proposing a completely meaningful lifestyle for the person. She marks out with vigour and joy a positive ideal in whose perspective moral behaviour codes are understood and lived.
           In the light of such an ideal, it is extremely harmful to the dignity of the person, and therefore it ismorally illicit, to support as AIDS prevention any method which violates the authentically human senseof sexuality, and is a palliative for those deep needs which involve the responsibility of individuals and of society: and right reason cannot admit that the fragility of the human condition – instead of being the motive for greater care – be used as a pretext for yielding to a way of moral degradation.
6.      Secondly, if prevention be understood in the constructive sense of the term as leading to the retrieval of the full meaning of life and the exalting fascination of generous dedication, it can only be to the advantage of a greater and vaster commitment to assist AIDS patients, above all among the younger generations. Those who suffer from AIDS, even in their unique pathology, are entitled to receive adequate health care, respectful comprehension and complete solidarity, just like every other ailing person. The Church, imitating her Divine Founder and Teacher, has always deemed as fundamental to her mission assistance to those who are suffering. She now feels that she is called upon as protagonist in this new area of human suffering, aware as she is that suffering man is a “special way” of her teaching and ministry.
Consequently, many Bishops’ Conferences in different parts of the world have published documents, issuing concrete directives to initiate, improve and intensify the pastoral approach of hope in the action taken to prevent AIDS and in the health care offered to those stricken by it, at times even opening specialized AIDS care centres.
           In the spirit of communion, and with confident and intense participation in the sentiment of the whole Church, I willingly take this opportunity to unite my voice to those of the other Bishops, and exhort each and every one to assume his personal responsibilities.
7.      Above all, I turn with grievous immediacy to those who suffer from AIDS.
Brothers in Christ, who know the bitter harshness of the Way of the Cross, do not feel that you are alone. The Church is with you as sacrament of salvation, to sustain you on your difficult path. She receivesmuch when you live out your suffering with faith; she is beside you with the comfort of active solidarity inher members so that you never lose hope. Remember how Jesus invites you: “Come to Me all of you wholabour and are overburdened, and I will give you complete rest.” (Mt 11:28).
           At your side, dear ones, are the men of science who are untiringly struggling to subdue and contain this serious disease; and with you are all those who with generous voluntary dedication or with diligent professionalism sustained by the ideal of human solidarity, wish to accompany you with every kind of attention and care. But you can offer on your part something which is so important to the community to which you belong. For the effort to give meaning to your suffering is a precious call back to the highest of life’s values, which touches all men, and a particular help which may even be definitive for those who are tempted by despair.
           Every day the prayer of the Church is offered to Our Lord for you, especially for those of you who undergo the illness in abandonment and solitude, for the orphans, for those who are weakest and poorest; those whom the Lord teaches are considered as first in His Kingdom.
8.      I now turn to the families: In the family nucleus is children’s first school of life and of formation in life’s responsibility in all its aspects, including those related to sexuality.
Parents, you can carry out the first and most effective program of prevention by providing your children with correct information, and preparing them for responsible choice of proper behaviour, both individually and socially.
           As for those families who are living from within the drama of AIDS, I want them to feel the special understanding of the Pope, who is so very aware of the difficult mission to which they are called. I pray to Our Lord that He grant them the generosity they need to be able to continue to the end their mission, which, before God and society, they have assumed as undeniable. The loss of family warmth and concern causes in AIDS sufferers the diminishment and even complete loss of that psychological and spiritual stateof immunity which at times is as important as physical immunity in sustaining the individual’s capacity for reaction. Especially those families born under the sign of Christian matrimony have the mission to offer a courageous witness of faith and love; not abandoning their dear one, but rather caring for him, they should surround him with attentive care and affectionate presence.
9.      To teachers and educators: I appeal to you to become promoters in close contact with the families, of suitable and serious formation of adolescents and youth. Especially in Catholic schools, prepare an organic programming of health education in which preventive measures are in harmony with moral values in the development and formation of a just and authentic lifestyle, fundamental guarantee of the protection of one’s own health and that of others.
           Educators, to you has been confided the responsibility to guide the young generations towards an authentic culture of love, offering in yourselves guidance and a model of faithfulness to the ideal values which give meaning to life.
10.To the youth of every age and social state, I say: Make your thirst of life and love be that thirst of life which is worth living, of a life of constructive love. The necessary prevention against the AIDS threat is not to be found in fear, but rather in the conscious choice of a healthy, free and responsible lifestyle. Avoid types of behaviour which are marked by dissipation, by indifference, by egoism. Be, instead, protagonists inthe construction of a just social order upon which the world of your future will depend.
           With generosity and creative imagination, practice ever new forms of solidarity. Reject every kind of marginalization; stand by those less fortunate than you, assist those who are suffering, while you develop the virtues of friendship and understanding, rejecting all forms of violence towards yourselves and towards others. May your strength be hope, and your ideal, the universal assertion of love.
11.To those who govern and those responsible for social well-being: I make an urgent appeal to address in every way the new problems posed by the spread of AIDS. The actual and foreseeable proportions of this disease, as also its close ties with certain behaviour patterns which weigh heavily upon interpersonal and social relations, demand that the Nations assume all their responsibility with timeliness and courage, with clear ideas and upright initiatives. In particular, the health and social authorities have the jurisdiction to determine and execute a world-wide plan for the fight against AIDS and drug addiction; within this programming, there should be recognition, coordination and maintenance of all just initiatives developed by private citizens, groups, associations and organizations for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
           Likewise, the struggle against AIDS calls for collaboration among all peoples. And because the demand for health and for life is the common denominator of all men, may no political or economic interest divide the commitment of the Nations which, united, are called to respond to the challenge of AIDS.
12.To scientists and researchers, with praise for their commendable efforts, I extend my invitation to intensify and coordinate their labors, source of hope for AIDS sufferers and for all of Humanity. As already stated: “It would be illusory to claim ethical neutrality in scientific research and its applications…Therefore, to maintain their own intrinsic significance, science and technology require unconditioned respect for thefundamental criteria of morality: they must be at the service of the human person, of his unalienable rights, and of his true and integral well-being, according to the project and will of God” (Instruction Donum Vitae, n. 2).
           As yet, there is still no vaccine, nor is there any effective medicine against the AIDS virus. May scientific and pharmaceutical research discover the hoped-for remedy. For Mankind is imploring your competence and your sensitivity, distinguished scientists and researchers; it awaits your response in favour of life, above all, as fruit of your collaboration and dedication.
13.During this interval in which we await the definitive discovery, I invite the physicians and all health care workers involved in this delicate professional sector, to transform your service into witness of helping love. As I said in Phoenix, U.S.A., to the members of the Catholic Health Care Organizations,“You, both individually and collectively, are the living expression of the Parable of the Good Samaritan”(Teachings, X, 3, 1987, p. 506). Therefore, may your diligence be free of any discrimination! Be capableof receiving, understanding and valuing the confidence which your ailing brother has in you. Always seek,through caring and with discretion and love, to draw closer to that mysterious and so human psychic andspiritual sphere of the patient, from which living and healing energy may flow that will help the sick personto discover, even in his condition, the meaning of his life and the meaning of his suffering.
And you who are volunteer health care workers, who in ever-greater numbers devote competence and availability to AIDS victims or are engaged in the work of preventive education, join and coordinate your efforts, update your training, promote activities outside as well to increase community awareness of the problems linked to the reality and threat of AIDS. Be spokesmen for the anxieties, needs, and expectations of those you are assisting.
14.To our brothers in the priesthood and to our brothers and sisters consecrated in religious life: First of all to those of you who are specifically dedicated to pastoral health care, my most fervent call thatyou be heralds of the Gospel of Suffering in this contemporary world. The Church’s history in health careabounds in heroic personages: priests, religious brothers and sisters who in their compassionate assistance tothe suffering have exalted the doctrine and the reality of Love.
           Your action, my dear brothers and sisters, to be truly credible and effective, should always be sustained by faith and nourished by prayer. You, who have embraced Christ as the only ideal in your lives, are called to be Jesus’ presence in the world: Jesus, Physician of souls and bodies. May those who receive your care perceive through your actions the presence of Jesus, and the tender, maternal presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
           Listen generously to the call of your Bishops; love and give preference to assist the sick; act under the sign of self-denial and of love, so that “the Cross of Christ may not be made pointless” (1 Co 1:17). Draw close to those who are the least, the most abandoned of our brothers. Be hospitable, promote and sustain all the initiatives which, in serving the suffering, exalt the greatness and the dignity of the human person and his eternal destiny. Be witnesses to the Church’s love for all those who are suffering, and of her preference for those most tried by evil.
15.Lastly, I invite all the faithful to offer their prayer to the Lord of life to help humanity to gain something also from this new, threatening calamity. May God enlighten believers as to the true and ultimate reason for existence in such a way that always and everywhere they might be messengers of undying hope. May contemporary man know how to repeat the words of Job to the Lord: “I know that You are all powerful; what You conceive, You can perform” (Jb 42:2). If today, in the face of the impending plague of AIDS, we are still looking for an effective cure, we trust that with the help of God life will finally triumph over death and joy over suffering.
           With this wish, I invoke the blessing of Almighty God upon you and all those who spend their energies at the service of this most noble cause for which you have come together at this Conference.
 

Beyond Fear: Compassion, Clear-sightedness, Solidarity (Catholic Bishops of Canada) 14/03/89

A pastoral message on AIDS from the Catholic Bishops of Canada
INTRODUCTION
1.      Since the beginning of the decade the infectious and communicable disease called AIDS has spread through a large number of countries at a terrifying rate. Canada has not been spared, with 2,323 reported cases, 1,259 resulting in death, between 1980 and January 1989. It has been also noted that the number of persons in a given region who have this disease tends to increase alarmingly: in fact, the number of recorded cases doubles from year to year. In many sections of the population these facts are causing panic or provoking so great a fear that people feel paralyses.
2.      Initially at least, Christians cannot avoid being caught up by this sometimes overblown fear whose expansion keeps pace with the spread of the disease itself. Moreover, are they not called by the Pastoral Commission, Gaudium et Spes, to share the fears and sorrows or their contemporaries as well as their joys and hopes?
3.      “The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 1)
4.      However, though we may initially share this fear, we must not surrender to it. On the contrary, we must do all we can to overcome it because there is danger that fear will sap the energies we need to face this disease. In a spirit of hope, we would like to see Christian communities, like all people of good will, transcend this fear in three ways:
o       by showing compassion to those infected by the virus or suffering from AIDS;
o       by being clear-sighted is assessing the situation;
o       by promoting a spirit of solidarity among care givers.
It seems to us that these responses follow directly from our fidelity to the acts and teachings of Jesus, as well as from an adequate view of the worth of every person.
COMPASSION TOWARD THOSE WITH AIDS OR CARRYING THE VIRUS
5.      If there is one thing that marks Jesus’ conduct, it is His compassion for the        sickand wounded, and His obvious lack of concern about being contaminated by diseaseor evil. Contrary to the practice of His time, Jesus touches lepers (Mt. 8: 3; Mk. 1: 41; Lk. 5: 13); shares a meal with people who are officially impure (Mt. 26: 6; Mt. 9: 10; Mt. 11: 11; Mk. 2: 15-16; Lk. 5: 30); disregards the recriminations of those who have made themselves the judges of the adulterous woman (Jn. 8: 1-11); calmly argues with a woman currently living with her sixth “companion” (Jn. 4: 1-42). Was it bravado that made Him do these things, or was He trying to show us how to get beyond the barriers raised by sickness or moral failing to encounter the wounded person and be present to his or her misery?
6.      We ask you then whether it conforms to the Gospel – or even to acceptable human behaviour – to ostracize individuals suffering from AIDS by depriving them of housing and jobs, or to refuse them certain kinds of health care and subject them to humiliating attitudes and practices, or to go the whole way and place them under quarantine? Too often, nonetheless, AIDS patients are demoralized by contempt and rejection, smug judgements and lectures, humiliating inquiries and hasty presumptions, which even extend to children stricken by the disease or believed to be infected.
7.      Fortunately, despite these negative attitudes towards AIDS and those who suffer from it, we do find wonderful examples of individuals, believers and others, who have listened to their minds and hearts. In fact, many people, friends of those ill with AIDS, health care professionals and palliative care volunteers have not hesitated to be in contact with the sick in order to care for them, show them sympathy and see that they are surrounded by a warm human presence in their difficult moments. We thank the Lord for these witnesses of His love and we are challenged by their example. We invite our brothers and sisters in faith and all the people of goodwill to develop a similar attitude and to get involved so that society may provide those suffering from AIDS with the help they need, that is, the respect and care to which they are entitled, as human beings.
8.      We warmly invite Christians to strive, in accordance with the power of Jesus, to believe more in the contagious power of good than in the eventual spread of any evil or disease. It seems to us that Christians should to everything they can so that no one suffering from AIDS feels rejected by his of her brothers and sisters or by God. Among those who are open to persons with AIDS, the followers of Jesus should strive to reflect in very special ways the tenderness and saving will of a God whom Jesus calls Father. With others who help, Christians who believe in the Resurrection can help those suffering from AIDS to transform their ordeal into a path to line and rebirth.
9.      This compassionate approach may seem difficult to follow. Some of our contemporaries will probably look upon us as kind-hearted utopians or pious dreamers. We are convinced, nonetheless, that compassion, which is very different from pity, is the light that guides us to walk in the steps of Jesus and helps us to conquer fear.
A CLEAR-SIGHTED ASSESSMENT OF THE SITUATION
10.Our compassion for those who have AIDS should, however, prompt us to look ahead and to think of those who might be infected or become sick from this disease. Overcoming fear of AIDS should lead us to the second step which we have labelled a clear-sighted assessment of the situation. In fact, our initial victory over fear would be only bravado and imprudence if it led us to trivialize the real situation, that so infectious a disease is presently running wild and spreading rapidly in our midst. We have to take a clear, intelligent and informed look at this fact.
11.People are led to such a sound and insightful approach through the information acquired and transmitted to the population as a whole about this disease. It is of crucial importance that specialists make generally available clear and simple information about how the disease is transmitted and how to avoid it. Everyone should obtain this information so that their conduct toward those suffering from AIDS may be guided by reason and not by disgust or irrational fears.
12.The initiatives of public authorities to provide the best ways to curb the spread of this disease are also part of this sound approach, and especially their efforts to find resources for proper care of the sick. And need we also mention the positive effects of the commitment of members of the Christian community to help society develop an open and responsible attitude toward what has happened, by supporting professional care-givers, by being sensitively present to the sick, etc.?
13.But we would still be taking a short-term point of view if we were to confine ourselves to looking at the phenomenon itself without concern about its origins and about the possibility of attacking the causes of the disease. According to current scientific knowledge, the AIDS virus (HIV) cannot survive outside the human body. Reported cases in this country show that the virus is sometimes spread to a child by an infected mother during pregnancy or at birth, and there are a number of cases of infection through blood transfusions. However, epidemiological studies done recently in Canada show that, in the great majority of cases, the virus is spread especially in one of two ways: Either by homosexual – and even heterosexual – relations or through use of infected syringes by drug addicts. Therefore, one of the most effective means to stem the disease would be to change personal behaviour both in the intravenous use of drugs and in sexual relations with infected persons or carriers of the virus.
14.To this end, some public health officials have set up programs for free distribution of sterile syringes to drug users and urged systematic use of condoms as protective devices. They have said, in effect, that these technical means would be best suited for the high-risk clientele with whom they are dealing. They believe, it seems, that these means would be relatively effective in reducing the rate at which the disease is spreading, especially in the case of persons whose irresponsible behaviour involves disastrous consequences for society as a whole.
15.We are fully aware that public health officials must look for the most effective means to counter this epidemic. However, we would like, for our part, to observe that the tow suggested preventative measures do not touch the real causes of this problem. They do not get at its real roots. In a spiritual tradition that is not limited to Christians, we believe that the problem should be set in a more human context. In the final analysis, one must call upon the moral and spiritual values of human love and sexuality.
16.A clear-sighted and informed look at this disquieting situation invites men and women of goodwill to question the way contemporary sexual attitudes are lived. Efforts against AIDS which are limited simply to presently known technical means and to a frantic search for an anti-AIDS vaccine are obviously insufficient. Would not this be to imitate those who would be content to reduce or to check the symptoms of a disease without eradicating its very cause? Permissiveness in intimate relations holds in store for us some nasty surprises. The rapid spread of AIDS now forces our society to take a second look at the whole movement to trivialize sex.
17.We believe the human quest for happiness requires or presupposes a certain measure of self-control, and openness to life and an interpersonal love which goes beyond a simple desire for physical pleasure. These are facts which a hedonistic civilization has, no doubt, forgotten or declared obsolete. It is precisely in this forgetfulness or rejection that we can detect the fundamental reason for the rapid spread of AIDS. In turn, the real remedy for what ails us at the end of the twentieth century is to be sought in a rediscovery of sexuality lived in a chaste, complete and more personal relationship of love, in the context of a stable marriage. Fraternally, we invite all men and women who have the wellbeing of humanity at heart to accept the challenges of a life which does not shrink from basic moral demands.
PROMOTION OF A SPIRIT OF SOLIDARITY AMONG CARE-GIVERS
18.We have already suggested the third way to overcome the fear aroused by the spread of AIDS: human solidarity, in which individuals stand together without regard to differences of religion or philosophy. We invite members of the Catholic communities for which we are responsible to work whole-heartedly at one of other of the tasks to which men and women of our time have committed themselves in an effort to slow the spread of this plague – tasks such as fundamental research in biology, medical research, studies of infected populations, epidemiological studies, philosophical and sociological research on our culture, research in pastoral psychology, moral support of those suffering from AIDS, involvement in specialized social services, education programs for youth, detoxification programs, etc.
19.We are determined to support those who get involved with persons suffering from AIDS. We invite members of Christian communities not to hesitate to get involved in a spirit of solidarity. We believe that we can help our brothers and sisters, who are desperately fighting the grip that this fatal disease has on them, to discover a new quality of life, even as they face certain death.
CONCLUSION
20.In conclusion we repeat our belief that the AIDS challenge must be faced in the same way we face other challenges: we must not let panic take away our capacity to act, or let it pressure us into trying solutions that disregard the dignity of the human being. We are thinking here, specifically, of measures to ostracize AIDS victims and of campaigns limited to simple technical means to fight the spread of the disease. We recall what Cardinal Basil Hume, the Archbishop of Westminster, had to say:
21.“The fact to be faced is that all of us in society have to learn to live according to a renewed set of values. That will not be easy. How can any appeal for faithfulness and sexual restraint be heeded when there is on all sides explicit encouragement to promiscuous behaviour and frequent ridicule of moral values? Society is in moral disarray, for which we must all take our share of blame. Sexual permissiveness reflects a general decline of values.
22.“Some might question whether any consensus on values is possible in a society which has so lost touch with its cultural, religious and spiritual roots. Nonetheless I am convinced that there are untapped reserves of goodness and idealism in many individuals and communities.” (The Times, January 7, 1987, p. 10b)
23.Indeed, we believe so firmly in the goodness and wisdom that the Lord has placed in the human heart that we dare hope that together we will manage to meet this challenge that has sprung up in our path. Because of what happened one Easter morning, we once again state our faith in the possibility of an unexpected transformation of what appears as death into the seeds of life!

Orthodox Churches

 

Protestant Churches and Networks

 

Calvyn Protestantse Kerk van SA MIV/VIGS Beleidsdokument 2004. 01/12/04

Calvyn Protestantse Kerk van SA. MIV/VIGS Beleidsdokument 2004 (1/12/2004)

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Dutch Reformed Church Family

 

Joint declaration AIDS Task Group Dutch Reformed Church (Western Cape) and the United Reformed Church (Cape) 2013

The Dutch Reformed Church (Western Cape) and the United Reformed Church (Cape) wish to faithfully follow Jesus Christ, their crucified and resurrected Lord, in His calling to involvement with regard to the HIV epidemic in the priestly, royal and prophetic tradition. In obedience to our Lord, the Head of the Church, we wish to follow Him wherever He leads in responsible and compassionate response to HIV and AIDS.

1.  We acknowledge and confess:

* that we, the church, the body of Christ, also live with HIV;

* that ignorance, prejudice and denial lingers in the hearts of many members;

* that we do not always see the destructive effects of the HIV epidemic on our communities, congregations, families and members through the eyes of God;       

* that we insufficiently demonstrate the love of God towards people living with the  realities of HIV.

2.  We wish to show love and compassion towards all people living with the realities of HIV and we wish to do that by:

* offering counseling and support to all who experience pain and heartache, especially those rejected or abandoned by the church and the broader society;

* eliminating myths, discourse, negative attitudes and discrimination within our congregations and communities;

* transforming congregations into safe-havens where all are welcomed and at liberty to exercise and express their Christianity without fear of being judged.

3.  We wish to control the spread of HIV by establishing moral values with regard to sexual activity. Consequently:

* we appeal to all to respect one another in their relationships;

* we appeal to spouses to remain faithful to one another as life-long partners;

* we appeal to parents to fulfill their nurturing responsibilities to educate their children in healthy relationships and sexuality;

* we appeal to educators, in their comprehensive task, to instill in our children and our youth, the values of healthy and moral lifestyles;

* we appeal to all to practice safe and responsible sex.

4.  We wish to address the negative circumstances which encourage the spread of HIV infection. We wish to do all in our power to:

* strengthen the family lives of our members in terms of Biblical principles;

* address poverty together with alcohol and drug abuse;

* root-out all forms of sexual violence and rape and help establish a culture in which people respect one another;

* make available correct and comprehensive information on HIV;

* encourage and facilitate voluntary HIV testing;

* establish stronger awareness and sensitivity with regard to the stigmatizing and marginalizing of people with HIV; and to oppose it;
* to encourage people to practice safe sex. 

5.  We declare that, in this important undertaking, we will seek and support co-operation and partnership with the authorities and other appropriate role-players.



Footnote:  The terms HIV and AIDS are closely related to each other, but not exactly the same. HIV refers to a virus that weakens the immune system of human beings. In the absence of treatment, prolonged infection with HIV will lead to the development of AIDS. AIDS is therefore the result of HIV infection and refers to a time when the HIV positive person becomes seriously ill with a variety of different diseases. We are advised to only use the term AIDS when referring to the actual AIDS phase. In the majority of cases it is correct to refer to only HIV. When you do want to refer to both HIV and AIDS, we are advised to not combine it (HIV/AIDS) but to write it out as HIV and AIDS.                                                                                      

Verklaring NG Moderatuur Wes en Suid Kaap. 17/05/09

NG Kerk Wes-En-Suid-Kaapland

Die Ned Geref. Kerk Wes-en-Suid-Kaapland is diep onder die indruk van die impak van MIV en vigs op die lewe van miljoene Suid-Afrikaners. Die siekte kom voor in elke sfeer van ons samelewing insluitende mans en vroue, ryk en arm mense, swart en wit mense. Vroue in die ouderdomsgroep wat aan kinders geboorte skenk, word die ergste geaffekteer.

Daar word bereken dat bykans een derde van alle swanger vroue in Suid-Afrika MIV-positief is. Na beraming leef 258 000 kinders onder die ouderdom van 14 in ons land met MIV en vigs. Een van die mees tragiese gevolge van die pandemie is die toenemende getal kinders wat ouers verloor a.g.v. die siekte. Tans is meer as 2.5 miljoen Suid-Afrikaanse kinders reeds op hierdie manier wees gelaat.

Die kerk is as geloofsgemeenskap daartoe verbind om ’n veilige ruimte te wees van sorg en deernis vir alle mense met MIV en vigs. Die kerk se bediening aan mense wat met MIV en vigs leef, is gefokus op die hoop in Christus. Hy bring inderdaad hoop aan elkeen wat geraak word deur die stukkendheid van hierdie wêreld. Sy hoop bied aan mense inspirasie vir elke dag. Sy hoop gee ook aan mense die krag om elke dag voluit en gehoorsaam te leef vanuit sy roeping.

As kerk is ons daartoe verbind om saam met MIV geïnfekteerdes en geaffekteerdes te leef en getuig vanuit die krag van die Heilige Gees. Die Gees maak immers lewend. Ons is daarom opreg verbind tot die pastorale versorging van almal wat deur die siekte geïnfekteer of -affekteer is.

As kerk is ons ook daartoe verbind om die verdere verspreiding van MIV te bestry deur mense te bedien met die boodskap van die Evangelie in al sy etiese en pastorale konsekwensies. Die bekamping van en betrokkenheid by armoede is deel van die kerk se poging om diegene wat die meeste kwesbaar is vir die pandemie te help en verdere verspreiding van die siekte te beperk. Die afbreek van die stigma wat aan die siekte kleef, is vir die kerk ’n prioriteit. Die kerk stry ook met evangeliese ywer teen alle vorme van intimidasie en magsug in huwelike, families en die samelewing.

As kerk werk ons heelhartig saam met owerhede en ander instansies wat die verspreiding van MIV bestry en wat siek mense help. Ons moedig alle gemeentes aan om bekend te raak met en betrokke te raak by die nood van mense wat met MIV en vigs leef en by die bekamping van die pandemie. Ons moedig ook graag gemeentes aan om van die riglyne en literatuur wat deur die Vigsforum beskikbaar gestel is, gebruik te maak. Ons glo God roep ons in hierdie tyd om met toegewyde priesterlike diensbaarheid aan mense wat met MIV en vigs leef in die besonder, maar ook aan ons totale samelewing, getuienis te lewer van sy liefde.

Moderatuur;  Wes-en-Suid-Kaapland

 

NG Kerk Persverklaring . 01/12/05

NG Kerk Persverklaring 1 Desember 2005

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Press Statement of Uniting Reformed Church. 30/11/05

Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa: Press Statement on the HIV/AIDS Situation: 30 November 2005

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Die Goeie Herder-Strategie. Algemene Sinode: NG Kerk 2004

Die Goeie Herder-Strategie. Die Voorgestelde MIV- en Vigsstrategie van die Algemene Sinode van die Ned Geref Kerk Opgestel deur die Ng Kerk Vigsforum 2004

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Verklaring en Verbintenis van die NG Kerk in Verband met MIV en VIGS. 10/2003

Verklaring en Verbintenis van die NG Kerk in Verband met MIV en VIGS (soos aanvaar tydens die sitting van die Algemene Sinode van die NG Kerk Oktober 2003)

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Verenigende Gereformeerde Kerk in Suider-Afrika Standpunt oor MIV/Vigs. 2001

Verenigende Gereformeerde Kerk in Suider-Afrika Standpunt oor MIV/Vigs. 2001

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URCSA Statement on HIV/AIDS. 2001

URCSA statement on HIV/AIDS 2001.

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Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika Mediaverklaring. 2003

Mediaverklaring oor die MIV-VIGSpandemie

Die Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika (GKSA) neem met hartseer kennis van een van die grootste krisisse wat die mensdom nog ooit getref het met die sorgwekkende afmetings wat die pandemie van vigs aangeneem het en steeds aanneem. Statistiek RSA: Geïnfekteer 3.5 miljoen (2003); 5.3-6.1 miljoen (2005); 6-7.5 miljoen (2010). Sterftesyfer (per jaar): 90 000 (2002), 383 000 (2005) 635 000 (2010).*

Die Sinode het ook sy kommer uitgespreek oor die kerke se gebrekkige rol ten opsigte van bestryding van hierdie tragedie. Die verwoestende effek wat vigs uitoefen op die gesinslewe (ouerlose kinders), die beroepslewe (verminderende arbeidskorps) en die mediese diens (oorlading by dokters en hospitale) is enorm. Daarmee saam die toenemende armoede en magteloosheid in agtergeblewe gemeenskappe waar vigs ‘n welige teelaarde vind. Met afsku is ook kennis geneem van die gevaarlike mites wat onder sekere mense oor vigs bestaan en wat gelei het tot verkragting van kinders.

Teleurstelling is ook uitgespreek oor die landsregering se oënskynlike onvermoë om die vigs-pandemie op betekenisvolle wyse die hoof te bied met sy pro-kondoomveldtog asof dit veilige seks sal waarborg. Daarom is daar waardering vir die nuwe benadering van die regering, naamlik sy MIV-VIGS-program A (“abstinence”) en B (“be faithful”).

‘n Beroep word op die kerke gedoen

- om te waarsku teen stigmatisering, diskriminering en verwerping van MIV-positiewe persone;

- om in die gesindheid van die liefde van Christus ‘n veilige hawe te wees waar MIV-positiewe mense en vigslyers en hulle naasbestaandes die grootste vrymoedigheid het om hulle status bekend te maak;

- om deur middel van morele voorligting (aan veral jongmense), pastorale begeleiding en versorging van vigspasiënte en weeskinders die genesende krag van die evangelie van die Here Jesus Christus in die samelewing sigbaar te maak;

- om as vennoot formeel betrokke te raak by multi-dissiplinêre aksies om vigs te voorkom en te bestry;

- om te offer ten einde ook finansieel ‘n beduidender rol te speel.

n Beroep word op die jeug gedoen om te besef dat daar geen veilige seks bestaan nie, maar wel verantwoordelike seks binne die raamwerk van die monogame huwelik. Seksuele losbandigheid is nie alleen ‘n hoë risiko nie, maar ook teen die wil van God.

‘n Beroep word op die sentrale owerheid gedoen om MIV-VIGS tot ‘n aanmeldbare siekte te verklaar ten einde MIV-VIGS-pasiënte doeltreffend te identifiseer en te behandel. Hierdie beroep het besondere betrekking op situasies van gedwonge saamgroepering van mense - soos veral in hostelle en in gevangenisse waar homoseksualiteit en verkragting ‘n hoë risiko is.

Die owerhede (nasionaal, provinsiaal en munisipaal) word ook versoek om met nog groter doelgerigtheid alles in die werk te stel om deur middel van voorligting, voorsorg, finansiële voorsiening en voorkomende maatreëls die pandemie te probeer stuit sodat ons ‘n gesonde samelewing mag hê.

‘n Beroep word ook op die media gedoen om nie advertensieruimte vir prostitusie te gee nie aangesien prostitusie teen die wil van God en sy Woord is én ook vanweë die direkte verband tussen prostitusie en MIV-VIGS-besmetting.

·        Bron: loveLife. Henry J Kaiser. Family Foundation.

Communiqué Scripture Union West Africa (SUWA). 07/06

Pastors/Church Workers’ HIV and AIDS Workshop organized by Scripture Union West Africa (SUWA). Miango Rest House, Jos, Nigeria. June 26- July 2, 2006.

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Breaking the Silence: Commitments of the Pan-African Lutheran Church Leadership Consultation . 06/05/02

Breaking the Silence: Commitments of the Pan-African Lutheran Church Leadership Consultation in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic Nairobi, 2-6 May 2002. 

We, the member churches of the Lutheran World Federation in Africa, represented by Bishops and Presidents, Women Leaders and Youth Leaders, meeting in Nairobi May 2002, make the following commitments in response to God's call to act and respond in the face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. 

We do so as part of the Lutheran communion of churches, based on our doctrine of justification through God's grace being available to all. We intend to offer visible public leadership in our commitment to breaking down the injustices against those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. 

We commit ourselves to pray, seek justice and life in dignity for those living with and affected by and dying from HIV/AIDS. 

It is our intention to be a communion where our congregations are healing communities of care and advocacy for all living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. 

You have called us, O Lord, to be your servants; we make this commitment with Your help 

We commit ourselves to breaking the silence

We recognize the many willing people who are currently engaged in and outside our churches in giving care and support. We will, however, publicly confess and acknowledge that we have too often contributed to stigmatization and discrimination and that our churches have not always been safe or welcome places for people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. In some cases Holy Communion has been refused to people living with HIV/AIDS, funerals of people having died from AIDS have been denied and comfort to the bereaved has not been given. We repent of these sins. 

We therefore commit ourselves to a faithful and courageous response in breaking the silence, speaking openly and truthfully about human sexuality and HIV/AIDS.  

We recognize that it is especially important for the bishops, presidents and other church leaders to publicly speak and provide leadership in breaking the silence. 

We will develop church policy on HIV/AIDS and encourage each congregation and church institution to develop and adopt an action plan for response and implementation.

 Trusting in the Spirit of Mercy, we make this commitment with the help of God.

We commit our churches to become Healing Communities through prayer and action

The silence of persons living with HIV/AIDS and their families can only be broken when they know they will not be judged, excluded and discriminated against.

We commit ourselves to putting our words into deeds, following in the example of Jesus Christ, by making our churches safe places of support and community for those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. This begins first of all by stopping all forms of condemnation and rejection.  

We will instead create environments of openness and acceptance and encourage all pastors and lay leaders to speak openly about HIV/AIDS and set an example in local parishes by respecting the dignity and place in the community for each person.

We will offer our church as a place for support groups, which we will initiate, with persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and we will include them in the planning and implementation of all our HIV/AIDS work. 

Relying on the Spirit of Courage, we make this commitment with the help of God. 

We commit ourselves to learning and education

We commit ourselves to develop a vision of the church, whose mission is not limited to membership, but fulfills itself in outreach to all people.

We commit ourselves to making education a high priority and to finding ways and means to teach ourselves and our people about HIV/AIDS.

We are prepared to engage in this education at all levels of the church, from leadership to local community, involving influential people in the community.

We will affirm the dignity of women and men through teaching about human sexuality and relationships, about love and mutual respect and equality.  

Praying for the Spirit of Wisdom, we make this commitment with the help of God. 

We commit ourselves to provide care and counseling

We commit to turning stigma and discrimination into care and counselling for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and we encourage and support voluntary testing.

We commit ourselves to address with confidence controversial issues that raise fear in us and contribute to the silence. We will support and provide further training in care and counselling.

We will strengthen the involvement of young peer educators.

We will especially seek to support people who are tested HIV positive in how to live a full quality of life as part of the community.

We will strongly condemn sexual abuse and will express full solidarity with all victims of sexual abuse.

We will commit ourselves to finding ways to care for AIDS orphans, child-headed households and women widowed by AIDS. 

Surrendering our will to the Spirit of Service, we make this commitment with the help of God. 

We commit ourselves to prevention

We commit ourselves to examine attitudes and behavior that can cause harm to our neighbor in the light of our Lutheran ethics.

We commit ourselves to taking a strong role to ensure prevention of HIV by assisting in efforts to reduce the spread of the pandemic.

We will speak the truth about the spread of HIV/AIDS and its prevention including the behavior change that is necessary.

We will not stand in the way of the use of any effective methods of prevention. 

Listening to the Spirit of Truth, we make this commitment with the help of God. 

We commit ourselves to further develop our theological understanding of the challenges of HIV/AIDS

We commit ourselves to deepening our theological understanding of the challenges of HIV/AIDS based on our Lutheran teaching. Specifically we will deal theologically with the problem of stigma and discrimination as an issue of social injustice.

We will preach a gospel of hope in the midst of the disaster of HIV/AIDS.

We commit ourselves to develop and utilize liturgy for worship that helps us cope with HIV/AIDS suffering and struggle.

We will ensure that such theological discussions are carried out at our seminaries and theological institutions of learning.

We will ensure that HIV/AIDS issues are adequately and contextually taken up in the curricula for theological education and in lay leaders training and in continuing education.

We commit ourselves to also develop and utilize HIV/AIDS related educational material for Sunday schools, confirmation classes church schools and other church institutions. 

Assured by the Spirit's Inspiration, we make this commitment with the help of God. 

We commit ourselves to collaboration and joining hands with those who fight AIDS

We commit ourselves to seeking out and working with other partners in our response to HIV/AIDS, especially with those who are living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and their organizations. We will be open to learn from people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

We recognize that we cannot accomplish this work on our own.

We affirm that as church we have to make a meaningful contribution to the national and international work.

Specifically we will work ecumenically with other churches, with other faith traditions, with NGOs, and our national governments.

We will make special efforts to link with UNAIDS and other relevant UN agencies.

We commit ourselves to linking with and using the Africa sub-regional resource persons in the Ecumenical AIDS Initiative of the World Council of Churches.

We will seek necessary resources to carry out our plans, including targeting our own financial resources for education, training, care and counseling. 

As members with others of the Body of Christ, we make this commitment with the help of God. 

We commit ourselves to advocacy work

We commit ourselves to advocate for accessible and affordable anti-retrovirals and opportunistic infections drugs and we will make the infrastructure and resources of our church available to provide the medical support for treatment.

We commit ourselves to advocate for just labor practices for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as access to adequate medical care, housing and education.

We commit ourselves to advocate against harmful practices, whether modern or traditional. 

Because we believe that where one suffers, all suffer, we make this commitment with the help of God. 

We commit ourselves to fight poverty and working towards securing the livelihood of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

We recognize poverty and illiteracy as compounding and resulting from the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We therefore commit ourselves to work towards food security for those who can no longer sustain their livelihood, thus responding to basic human rights and the God given right to live in dignity.

We commit ourselves to fight corruption and we will hold our governments accountable for just distribution of resources, both nationally and globally, as ongoing injustice contributes to increased poverty and further spread of HIV/AIDS. 

In the Spirit of our Savior Jesus Christ, who became poor that we might be rich, who suffered death that we might have life, we make this commitment with the help of God.

Methodist Church

 

Methodist Conference of Southern Africa Resolution. 2005

Resolution of the National Methodist Conference 2005

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Methodist Response to HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa. 2001

Methodist Response to HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa - Strategy and Implementation Plan. 2001.

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Recognizing and Responding to the Many Faces of AIDS in the USA. General Conference of The United Methodist Church. 1996

Recognizing and Responding to the Many Faces of AIDS in the USA. A resolution from the General Board of Global Ministries approved by the 1996 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.

The United Methodist Church has resolved to minister compassionately with all persons living with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones, following in the way of healing, ministry, hospitality, and service shown by Jesus.[1] Churches and other concerned United Methodist communities have been in ministry since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Context of Caring Ministry

HIV/AIDS affects and infects a broad cross-section of people in the United States and Puerto Rico: all ages, all races, both sexes, all sexual orientations. In 1995, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) noted that the proportion of AIDS cases among women, racial/ethnic people, and children continues to increase, while the rate of AIDS among gay/bisexual men has leveled. From a geographic perspective, more persons in the South and Northeast contracted AIDS in 1994 than in 1993.[2]

The United Methodist Church can help to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS through providing sound comprehensive age-appropriate prevention education, including information that abstinence from sex and injection drug use[3] is the safest way to prevent infection. In addition, the church can provide a grounding in Christian values for children, teens, and young adults, somethingthat cannot be done in public schools or in official government prevention material.
 

Teens and Young Adults

AIDS will increasingly affect and infect our next generation of leaders. Since 1991, AIDS has been the sixth leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds in the United States. In 1994, 50 percent of new infectionsof HIV were among persons under 25. Older teens, males, and racial/ethnic people were disproportionately affected. The CDC reported:

Many American teenagers are engaging in behaviors that may put them at risk of acquiring HIV infection, other sexually transmitted infections, or infections associated with drug injection. Recent CDC studies conductedevery 2 years in high schools (grades 9-12) consistently indicate that by the twelfth grade, approximately three-fourths of high school students have had sexual intercourse; less than half report consistent use of latex condoms,and about one-fifth have had more than four lifetime sex partners. Many students report using alcohol or drugs when they have sex and, in the most recent survey, 1 in 62 high school students reported having injected an illegal drug.[4]

By 1993, HIV became the leading cause of death in the United States among all persons aged 25-44.[5] Racial/ethnic groups have been especially hard hit. By 1991, HIV infection had become the leading cause of death for African Americans and Hispanics among males aged 25-44 years.

By 1993, it was the top cause of death for African American women in the same age group. Among Asians/Pacific Islanders and American Indians/AlaskaNatives young adults, AIDS ranks in the top ten leading causes of death.[6]
 

Racial and Ethnic Groups

African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans have been disproportionately infected with HIV/AIDS. In 1993, racial/ethnic people accounted for 51 percent of the cases of AIDS among adolescent and adult males, 75 percent among adolescent and adult females, and 84 percent of the cases among children.

Race and ethnicity are not in themselves risk factors for HIV. The CDC observes that "unemployment, poverty, and illiteracy are correlated with decreased access to health education, preventive services, and medical care, resulting in an increased risk for disease. In 1992, 33% of blacks and 29% of Hispanics lived below the federal poverty level, compared with 13% of Asians/Pacific Islanders and 10% of whites."[7] HIV/AIDS prevention education must therefore take into account the racial, cultural, economic realities of each group. Additionally, as the church, we are called to work for the conversion of those principalities and powers that promote racism, poverty, drug addiction, and other oppression.
 

Women

AIDS among women has been mostly "an invisible epidemic," even though women have been affected and infected since the beginning.[8] Since 1992, HIV/AIDS has been the fourth leading cause of death among U.S. women aged 25 to 44. African American and Hispanic women make up 21 percent of all U.S. women, these two groups accounted for 77 percent of the AIDS cases reported among women in 1994.[9] That same year, the AIDS case rate per 100,000 population was 3.8 for white women; 62.7 for African American women; 26.0 for Hispanic women; 1.3 for Asian/Pacific Islander women; and 5.8 for American Indian/Alaska Native women.

Dr. Michael Merson of the World Health Organization has identified the following reasons for the growing number of HIV infections in women. His observations, though made in the context of global AIDS, are also applicable to women in the U.S.A. and Puerto Rico. He says that
  1. women are biologically more vulnerable to heterosexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs);
  2. women tend to marry or have sex with older men, who have often had more sexual partners and therefore are liable to be infected; and
  3. women often live in cultures or situations of subordination to men, which often means they cannot insist that their partner use a condom.

Merson has said, "Women face extra challenges in protecting themselves and their children from HIV infection. But this vulnerability is hard for women to challenge as individuals, or even through female solidarity alone. It will take an alliance of women and men working in a spirit of mutual respect."[10]

Older Adults

By the end of 1993, persons age 50 and older accounted for 10 percent of all cases of AIDS nationwide.[11] That same year, the increase in persons with AIDS age 60 and older increased 17 percent over the previous year.[12] The most prevalent behavioral risks for older adults are multiple sexual partners and having a partner with a behavioral risk.[13] "The myth that people become sexually inactive as they age has produced dreadful consequences in the age of AIDS."[14]

Most older people believe they are not at risk if they are heterosexual and do not inject drugs. Since they are not worried about pregnancy, older people are less likely to use condoms.[15] One HIV/AIDS social worker says, "Reaching significant numbers of older adults with the HIV prevention message will entail exploring creative venues--the widows' support group at the senior center, the seniors' bowling league, the Gold Age clubs at community centers and churches. Wherever seniors gather, the HIV message must be visible, accessible, relevant, and respectful."[16]
 

The Challenge for Church Action
into the Next Century

Churches and other United Methodist organizations need to continue compassionate ministry with persons living with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones. In terms of prevention education, United Methodists have an opportunity to teach not only the facts about HIV transmission and how to prevent infection but also to relate these facts to Christian values. We can do HIV/AIDS prevention education in broader contexts, such as human sexuality and holistic health and addressing societal problems, such as racism, sexism, and poverty. We call on United Methodists to respond.

  1. We request that General Board of Discipleship

      (a) prepare curriculum resources for all age levels that is sensitive to cultural diversity, in consultation with the General Board of Global Ministries and the General Board of Church and Society. The curriculum will include biblical, theological, and ethical grounding, information on what individuals and communities of faith can do in the areas of compassionate ministry and HIV/AIDS advocacy, and age-appropriate comprehensive prevention education, including teaching that abstinence from sex and injection drug use is the safest approach to HIV/AIDS prevention. This material is to be made available in the first half of the quadrennium.
      (b) revise the United Methodist sexuality curriculum across age-levels to include HIV/AIDS prevention education.
      (c) prepare worship resources to assist in HIV/AIDS ministry which can be used by both laity and clergy.
  2. We call upon the Interagency Task Force on AIDS to coordinate a second national United Methodist HIV/AIDS consultation for the 1997-2000 quadrennium (the first one was held in San Francisco in 1987) in response to frequent requests from individuals, local churches, and conferences for HIV/AIDS training to equip them for ministry in the 21st century. We ask that the event be planned in consultation with appropriate United Methodist racial/ethnic national organizations. The event will equip United Methodist adult and youth to address HIV/AIDS issues and concerns into the 21st century, including the trends noted in this resolution, such as HIV/AIDS and women, youth, children, and cultural and racial diversity. The emphasis will be on HIV/AIDS in the United States but will have a global component.

  3. We urge all national leadership training sponsored by general church agencies include an HIV/AIDS education awareness component, basic facts about HIV/AIDS, workplace issues when appropriate, and ministry concerns.

  4. We ask local churches and all United Methodist organizations and communities to respond to the concerns of this resolution through use of the planned resources and materials, such as the United Methodist HIV/AIDS Ministries Network Focus Papers, and working with religious and/or community-based HIV/AIDS organizations to do prevention education with church and community. The United Methodist Church has a congregational HIV/AIDS ministry called the Covenant to Care Program, whose basic principle is "If you have HIV/AIDS or are the loved one of a person who has HIV/AIDS, you are welcome here...." We commend those who have been in ministry through this program and recommend A Covenant to Care to all United Methodist organizations.[17]


END NOTES

  1. CDC, "Current Trends: Update, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome--United States, 1994," 02/03/95.
  2. By injection drug use, we are referring to sharing of needles and works done by injection drug users. Usually this refers to use of heroin on the streets or steroids in sports contexts. We are not referring to persons who are diabetic, for instance, who use only sterile needles and inject insulin to maintain health.
  3. CDC Hotline Training Bulletin #114, 01/06/95.
  4. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report [MMWR], 02/03/95.
  5. MMWR, 09/09/94.
  6. MMWR, 09/09/94.
  7. See Gena Corea, The Invisible Epidemic: The Story of Women and AIDS (New York: HarperCollins, 1992).
  8. CDC Fact Sheet, "Facts about. . . Women and HIV/AIDS," 02/09/95.
  9. Press release published in Edinburgh, England on September 7, 1993 during the 2nd International Conference on HIV in Children and Mothers.
  10. National Institute of Health, "Older Americans at Risk of HIV Infection Take Few Precautions," 01/04/94.
  11. New York Times, 08/09/94.
  12. NIH, "Older People," 01/04/94.
  13. Gregory Anderson, "HIV Prevention and Older People," Siecus Report, December 1994/January 1995), p. 19.
  14. Rebecca A. Clay, "AIDS Among the Elderly," Washington Post, 01/16/93.
  15. Anderson, p. 20.
  16. HIV/AIDS Ministries Network
    Health and Welfare Ministries, General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church
    Room 330
    475 Riverside Drive
    New York, New York 10115
    Phone: 212-870-3909
    Fax: 212-870-3624

 

A Resolution from the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. 1992

The Church and the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic. A resolution from the General Board of Global Ministries approved by the 1992 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.

The United Methodist Church will work cooperatively with colleague churches in every region in response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic which is affecting the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities worldwide. The Old Testament is replete with calls to the nations and religious leaders to address the needs of the people who are in distress; who are suffering and ill. The New Testament presents a Jesus who reached out and healed those who came to him, including those who were despised and rejected because of their illnesses and afflictions. Jesus' identification with those who suffer was made clear in his admonition to his disciples that whatsoever you do to the least of these you do also unto me. (Matthew 25:40) His great commission to his followers to go and do as he has done is a mandate to the church for full involvement and compassionate response.

The Geneva-based World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2000, the number of people infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which causes HIV related illnesses including AIDS will reach 40 million. The suffering being borne by individuals, families, and entire communities, and the strain being placed on health facilities and national economies calls for intensified cooperative efforts by every sector of society to slow and prevent the spread of infection, to provide appropriate care for those already infected and ill, to speed the development of effective affordable treatments and vaccines to be available in all countries, and to provide support to care providers, communities, health care workers, health facilities and programs. The presence of HIV infection has been found in all five geographical regions and HIV illnesses have been reported to the World Health Organization by nearly 200 countries.

Worldwide, HIV infection has been transmitted primarily through heterosexual intercourse with infected persons, as well as in some regions through homosexual/bisexual sexual contact with infected persons, through blood to blood contact including the transfusion of infected blood and blood products, through infected transplanted organs and donated semen, through the use of infected instruments as well as skin piercing objects associated with ceremonial or traditional healing practices, through sharing of infected needles and equipment by injection drug users, from an infected woman to her fetus/infant before or during childbirth and in some instances after delivery through infected breast milk.

The economic, social, demographic, political and health system impact of HIV infection and related illnesses is being felt in innumerable ways. Worldwide, women and children increasingly are being affected by the spread of HIV infection. As larger numbers of women of child bearing age are infected and give birth, larger numbers of infants are born with HIV infection. As larger numbers of parents are infected and die, larger numbers of children are orphaned and extended families are called upon to provide care for greater numbers of family members.

Population growth rates, age structures, labor supply, and agricultural productivity will suffer negative effects as younger age group members and women are infected and become ill. The ramification of HIV infection and illness will be particularly grave on families and societies where the extended family is the main or only system of social security and care for family members who are aged or ill and for the nurture of orphaned children.

Gross national products may decrease in areas with high rates of HIV infection, morbidity and mortality. Crimes of hate and instances of neglect and rejection may increase against gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, prostitutes and others who are assumed to be carriers of HIV. Available health dollars and resources will be affected in the process of caring for larger numbers of persons with HIV illnesses and owing to the costs of securing, distributing, administering and monitoring the effects of new treatments and drug therapies as they become more readily available. The advances of the Child Survival Revolution may be offset as the health of greater numbers of children are infected. It is not known how health systems in any region will be able to manage the additional case loads in a world in which as many as 40 million people may be infected with HIV by the year 2000. The potential to reject and refuse care to persons with HIV is likely to increase until such time as low cost effective vaccines and therapeutic agents are produced and readily available to all.

In its 1988 Resolution on AIDS and the Healing Ministry of the Church, General Conference affirmed that "the global AIDS pandemic provides a nearly unparalleled opportunity for witness to the Gospel and service to human need among persons." Across the world, United Methodist-related public health specialists, health workers, social workers, teachers, missionaries, clergy and laity are living and working in cities, towns and villages where HIV infection and illness are endemic. In all regions churches, congregations, health facilities, schools, men's, women's and youth groups exist which can provide support, nurture and education in the midst of the HIV epidemic. The United Methodist Church Urges:

  • Local Congregations Worldwide to:
    1. Be places of openness where persons whose lives have been touched by HIV infection and illness can name their pain and reach out for compassion, understanding, and acceptance in the presence of persons who bear Christ's name;
    2. Provide care and support to individuals and families whose lives have been touched by HIV infection and illness;
    3. Be centers of education and to provide group support and encouragement to help men, women and youth refrain from activities and behaviors associated with transmission of HIV infection;
  • General Program Agencies to:
    1. Assist related health institutions to obtain supplies and equipment to screen donated blood and provide voluntary HIV testing;
    2. Support efforts by projects and mission personnel within regions to promote disease prevention and to respond to the needs of family care providers and extended families;
    3. Facilitate partnership relationships between institutions and personnel from region to region, as appropriate, to share models and effective approaches regarding prevention, education, care and support for individuals and families with HIV infection and illness;
    4. Assist health workers to obtain regional specific timely updates on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of HIV infection and illness;
    5. Facilitate the sharing of pastoral care resources and materials dedicated to the care of persons and families whose lives have been touched by HIV;
    6. Respond to requests from the regions to develop training seminars and workshops for church related personnel in cooperation with ecumenical efforts, private voluntary organizations and programs already existing in the regions;
    7. Advocate for national, regional and international cooperation in the development, availability and transport of appropriate/relevant equipment and supplies for infection control, disease prevention and treatment.
  • Annual Conferences to:
    1. Explore HIV prevention and care needs within their areas and to develop conference wide plans for appropriate effective responses;
    2. Promote pastoral responses to persons with HIV infection and related illnesses which affirm the presence of God's love, grace and healing mercies;
    3. Encourage every local church to reach out through proclamation and education to help prevent the spread of HIV infection and to utilize and strengthen the efforts and leadership potential of men's, women's and youth groups.
  • Episcopal Leadership in Every Region to:
    1. To issue pastoral letters to the churches calling for compassionate ministries and the development of educational programs which recognize the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a public health threat of major global and regional significance;
    2. Provide a level of leadership equal to the suffering and desperation being experienced by individuals, families and the communities in which they live.

The unconditional love of God, witnessed to and manifest through Christ's healing ministry provides an ever present sign and call to the church and all persons of faith to be involved in efforts to prevent the spread of HIV infection, to provide care and treatment to those who are already infected and ill, to uphold the preciousness of God's creation through proclamation and affirmation, and to be a harbinger of hope, mercy, goodness, forgiveness and reconciliation within the world.

The United Methodist Church unequivocally condemns the rejection and neglect of persons with HIV infection and illness and all crimes of hate aimed at persons with HIV infection or who are presumed to be carriers of the virus. The United Methodist Church advocates the full involvement of the church at all levels to be in ministry with and to respond fully to the needs of persons, families and communities whose lives have been affected by HIV infection and illness. In keeping with our faith in the risen Christ we confess our belief that God has received those who have died, that the wounds of living loved ones will be healed, and that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is present among us as we strive to exemplify what it means to be bearers of Christ's name in the midst of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
 

From The Book of Resolutions, 1996. Copyright © by the United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

Organisations and Networks

 

Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World. Recommendations for Conduct

The purpose of this document is to encourage churches, church councils and mission agencies to reflect on their current practices

World Council of Churches
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
World Evangelical Alliance

Preamble

Mission belongs to the very being of the church. Proclaiming the word of God and witnessing to the world is essential for every Christian. At the same time, it is necessary to do so according to gospel principles, with full respect and love for all human beings.

Aware of the tensions between people and communities of different religious convictions and the varied interpretations of Christian witness, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), the World Council of Churches (WCC) and, at the invitation of the WCC, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), met during a period of 5 years to reflect and produce this document to serve as a set of recommendations for conduct on Christian witness around the world. This document does not intend to be a theological statement on mission but to address practical issues associated with Christian witness in a multi-religious world.

The purpose of this document is to encourage churches, church councils and mission agencies to reflect on their current practices and to use the recommendations in this document to prepare, where appropriate, their own guidelines for their witness and mission among those of different religions and among those who do not profess any particular religion. It is hoped that Christians across the world will study this document in the light of their own practices in witnessing to their faith in Christ, both by word and deed.

A basis for Christian witness

1. For Christians it is a privilege and joy to give an accounting for the hope that is within them and to do so with gentleness and respect (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).

2. Jesus Christ is the supreme witness (cf. John 18:37). Christian witness is always a sharing in his witness, which takes the form of proclamation of the kingdom, service to neighbour and the total gift of self even if that act of giving leads to the cross. Just as the Father sent the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, so believers are sent in mission to witness in word and action to the love of the triune God.

3. The example and teaching of Jesus Christ and of the early church must be the guides for Christian mission. For two millennia Christians have sought to follow Christ’s way by sharing the good news of God’s kingdom (cf. Luke 4:16-20).

4. Christian witness in a pluralistic world includes engaging in dialogue with people of different religions and cultures (cf. Acts 17:22-28).

5. In some contexts, living and proclaiming the gospel is difficult, hindered or even prohibited, yet Christians are commissioned by Christ to continue faithfully in solidarity with one another in their witness to him (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:44-48; John 20:21; Acts 1:8).

6. If Christians engage in inappropriate methods of exercising mission by resorting to deception and coercive means, they betray the gospel and may cause suffering to others. Such departures call for repentance and remind us of our need for God’s continuing grace (cf. Romans 3:23).

7. Christians affirm that while it is their responsibility to witness to Christ, conversion is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 16:7-9; Acts 10:44-

47). They recognize that the Spirit blows where the Spirit wills in ways over which no human being has control (cf. John 3:8).

Principles

Christians are called to adhere to the following principles as they seek to fulfil Christ’s commission in an appropriate manner, particularly within interreligious contexts.

1. Acting in God’s love. Christians believe that God is the source of all love and, accordingly, in their witness they are called to live lives of love and to love their neighbour as themselves (cf. Matthew 22:34-40; John 14:15).

2. Imitating Jesus Christ. In all aspects of life, and especially in their witness, Christians are called to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ, sharing his love, giving glory and honour to God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 20:21-23).

3. Christian virtues. Christians are called to conduct themselves with integrity, charity, compassion and humility, and to overcome all arrogance, condescension and disparagement (cf. Galatians 5:22).

4. Acts of service and justice. Christians are called to act justly and to love tenderly (cf. Micah 6:8). They are further called to serve others and in so doing to recognize Christ in the least of their sisters and brothers (cf. Matthew 25:45). Acts of service, such as providing education, health care, relief services and acts of justice and advocacy are an integral part of witnessing to the gospel. The exploitation of situations of poverty and need has no place in Christian outreach. Christians should denounce and refrain from offering all forms of allurements, including financial incentives and rewards, in their acts of service.

5. Discernment in ministries of healing. As an integral part of their witness to the gospel, Christians exercise ministries of healing. They are called to exercise discernment as they carry out these ministries, fully respecting human dignity and ensuring that the vulnerability of people and their need for healing are not exploited.

6. Rejection of violence. Christians are called to reject all forms of violence, even psychological or social, including the abuse of power in their witness. They also reject violence, unjust discrimination or repression by any religious or secular authority, including the violation or destruction of places of worship, sacred symbols or texts.

7. Freedom of religion and belief. Religious freedom including the right to publicly profess, practice, propagate and change one’s religion flows from the very dignity of the human person which is grounded in the creation of all human beings in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:26). Thus, all human beings have equal rights and responsibilities. Where any religion is instrumentalized for political ends, or where religious persecution occurs, Christians are called to engage in a prophetic witness denouncing such actions.

8. Mutual respect and solidarity. Christians are called to commit themselves to work with all people in mutual respect, promoting together justice, peace and the common good. Interreligious cooperation is an essential dimension of such commitment.

9. Respect for all people. Christians recognize that the gospel both challenges and enriches cultures. Even when the gospel challenges certain aspects of cultures, Christians are called to respect all people. Christians are also called to discern elements in their own cultures that are challenged by the gospel.

10. Renouncing false witness. Christians are to speak sincerely and respectfully; they are to listen in order to learn about and understand others’ beliefs and practices, and are encouraged to acknowledge and appreciate what is true and good in them. Any comment or critical approach should be made in a spirit of mutual respect, making sure not to bear false witness concerning other religions.

11. Ensuring personal discernment. Christians are to acknowledge that changing one’s religion is a decisive step that must be accompanied by sufficient time for adequate reflection and preparation, through a process ensuring full personal freedom.

12. Building interreligious relationships. Christians should continue to build relationships of respect and trust with people of different religions so as to facilitate deeper mutual understanding, reconciliation and cooperation for the common good.

Recommendations

The Third Consultation organized by the World Council of Churches and the PCID of the Holy See in collaboration with World Evangelical Alliance with participation from the largest Christian families of faith (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal), having acted in a spirit of ecumenical cooperation to prepare this document for consideration by churches, national and regional confessional bodies and mission organizations, and especially those working in interreligious contexts, recommends that these bodies:

1. study the issues set out in this document and where appropriate formulate guidelines for conduct regarding Christian witness applicable to their particular contexts. Where possible this should be done ecumenically, and in consultation with representatives of other religions.

2. build relationships of respect and trust with people of all religions, in particular at institutional levels between churches and other religious communities, engaging in on-going interreligious dialogue as part of their Christian commitment. In certain contexts, where years of tension and conflict have created deep suspicions and breaches of trust between and among communities, interreligious dialogue can provide new opportunities for resolving conflicts, restoring justice, healing of memories, reconciliation and peace-building.

3. encourage Christians to strengthen their own religious identity and faith while deepening their knowledge and understanding of different religions, and to do so also taking into account the perspectives of the adherents of those religions. Christians should avoid misrepresenting the beliefs and practices of people of different religions.

4. cooperate with other religious communities engaging in interreligious advocacy towards justice and the common good and, wherever possible, standing together in solidarity with people who are in situations of conflict.

5. call on their governments to ensure that freedom of religion is properly and comprehensively respected, recognizing that in many countries religious institutions and persons are inhibited from exercising their mission.

6. pray for their neighbours and their well-being, recognizing that prayer is integral to who we are and what we do, as well as to Christ’s mission.

Appendix: Background to the document

1. In today’s world there is increasing collaboration among Christians and between Christians and followers of different religions. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) of the Holy See and the World Council of Churches’ Programme on Interreligious Dialogue and Co-operation (WCCIRDC) have a history of such collaboration. Examples of themes on which the PCID/WCC-IRDC have collaborated in the past are: Interreligious Marriage (1994-1997), Interreligious Prayer (1997-1998) and African Religiosity (2000- 2004). This document is a result of their work together.

2. There are increasing interreligious tensions in the world today, including violence and the loss of human life. Politics, economics and other factors play a role in these tensions. Christians too are sometimes involved in these conflicts, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, either as those who are persecuted or as those participating in violence. In response to this the PCID and WCC-IRDC decided to address the issues involved in a joint process towards producing shared recommendations for conduct on Christian witness. The WCC-IRDC invited the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) to participate in this process, and they have gladly done so.

3. Initially two consultations were held: the first, in Lariano, Italy, in May 2006, was entitled “Assessing the Reality” where representatives of different religions shared their views and experiences on the question of conversion. A statement from the consultation reads in part: “We affirm that, while everyone has a right to invite others to an understanding of their faith, it should not be exercised by violating others’ rights and religious sensibilities. Freedom of religion enjoins upon all of us the equally non-negotiable responsibility to respect faiths other than our own, and never to denigrate, vilify or misrepresent them for the purpose of affirming superiority of our faith.”

4. The second, an inter-Christian consultation, was held in Toulouse, France, in August 2007, to reflect on these same issues. Questions on Family and Community, Respect for Others, Economy, Marketing and Competition, and Violence and Politics were thoroughly discussed. The pastoral and missionary issues around these topics became the background for theological reflection and for the principles developed in this document. Each issue is important in its own right and deserves more attention that can be given in these recommendations.

5. The participants of the third (inter-Christian) consultation met in Bangkok, Thailand, from 25-28, January, 2011 and finalized this document.

Dalit Creed (A)

Overcoming Violence

A Dalit Creed

We believe in God the Creator, the sustainer and the redeemer of the whole of human
kind and the cosmos. We believe that God has created all in God’s own image.

We believe in Jesus Christ, who was born and lived as a Dalit during his earthly life;
who was born of the so-considered lowly Mary; who suffered unjust discrimination in
the context of the Roman Empire. He suffered humiliating crucifixion for his voice of
resistance against the hegemonic Empire. He part-took in the death of the martyrs to
identify himself with death and the death-like lives of the Dalits. He ascended into life
to bring about fullness of life in all.

We believe in the Holy Spirit who functions as an advocate and a counsellor to those
who are marginalised, and empowers them towards liberation. We affirm our faith in
the Holy Spirit, the Living Spirit of God, who empowers her children to break
inhuman barriers, and the obstacles that negate life, justice and peace. It is this Spirit
that strengthens us to suffer for justice, inspires us to stand against life-negating forces
and prejudices, shaping us into a community of forgiven and freely accepted brothers
and sisters, set apart for God’s service. Raised with Christ, we share in his work for
God’s world of everlasting love, justice and peace.

We believe in the Church that rises above the caste-based structures and which
overcomes prejudices by crossing boundaries and building bridges. We believe in One
Holy Catholic Church that is called to risk its life to cross boundaries to incorporate
everybody into the Body of Christ, irrespective of caste, creed, class, colour and
gender; and to be in solidarity with the wounded communities.

We believe in the community of saints who share a common stance of acceptance of
all in the sight of God and all humans; We believe in God’s forgiveness of sins when
we repent of our dominant nature and seek forgiveness wholeheartedly from the
victims of our oppressive nature; We believe in the resurrection of the body as a
witnessing voice to liberation from oppressions; We believe in the life-everlasting,
which ensures the restoration of an egalitarian cosmic family

Amen

(Prepared by the National Council of Churches, India – Commission on Dalits, 2009)

Holistic Mission and AIDS: The Challenge of Our Time to World Evangelization. 4/10/4

HIV/AIDS is a complex and multifaceted pandemic with a wide variety of interacting causes, sustaining factors and impacts.

Lausanne Movement
4 October 2004

Holistic Mission Study Group 

HIV/AIDS is the greatest humanitarian emergency in the history of the human family.  Almost 40 million people are infected with the virus.  Almost eight thousand people died of AIDS every day in 2003.  At 2003 infection rates, 92,000 people are being infected every week.  It is forecast that about 70 million people will die by 2020.

Fifteen million children have lost one or both of their parents worldwide.  Teenagers are heading households, raising their siblings.  Grandmothers are raising their grandchildren, having buried their own children behind their simple houses because of AIDS.  AIDS is creating widows and orphans at an incredible rate. 

Today, the center of gravity of the pandemic is Africa.  The pandemic has been raging for over twenty years, while most of the world has slept.  African pastors are burying people every day of every week; they are in the burial business.  Many of those impacted by HIV/AIDS are our sisters and brothers in the Lord. 

We are at the beginning of the pandemic, not the middle nor the end.  Africa is only the first wave of an emerging global pandemic.  China, India, and Russia – home to almost one-third of the world’s population – have growing HIV prevalence rates and poor prevention efforts that could lead them to the situation in which Africa now finds herself. 

Many African churches have taken the lead in responding in prevention and care.  A few Asian churches are doing the same.  Churches in other parts of the world have been slower to respond.  What is missing is global commitment on the part of all evangelicals to provide what God has given them to the fight against this scourge.

HIV/AIDS is a complex and multifaceted pandemic with a wide variety of interacting causes, sustaining factors and impacts.  Therefore this pandemic demands a holistic mission response from the churches.  We must make our contribution to fighting this disaster by drawing on a Christian worldview that seamlessly unites the material, psychosocial, social, cultural, political and spiritual aspects of life, a worldview that unites evangelism, discipleship, social action and the pursuit of justice.

HIV/AIDS is a biological issue.  The virus destroys the immune system God created to sustain human life.  The virus is complex and mutates easily. There is an enormous challenge of developing vaccines; promoting prevention and providing medical care for the infected.

HIV/AIDS is a behavioral issue.  Values formation takes place in communities of faith.  Where churches call for saving sex for marriage and faithfulness in marriage, infection rates are declining.  The moral authority of Scripture empowers us to speak to the cause of this pandemic’s spread.

HIV/AIDS is a child and youth issue.  Children form the values that shape their behavior at an early age, thus stressing the importance of targeting a biblical education of children.  Today’s youth generation is the largest in human history; they have never known a world without AIDS.  On the one hand, youth account for half of all new infections.  On the other hand, children and youth are the greatest hope of turning the tide against HIV/AIDS. 

HIV/AIDS is a gender issue.  The virus disproportionately singles out women.  In Africa women and teenage girls are 5-6 times more likely to become infected than men.  HIV/AIDS takes advantage of the low economic and social status of women, who have little control over sexual practice.  Men’s sexual behavior is one of the major drivers of this pandemic.

HIV/AIDS is a poverty issue.  HIV/AIDS reveals the fracture, stresses and strains in society, exploiting disorder, inequality and poverty.  The virus seeks the weak, the poor and the vulnerable.  It destroys more quickly where nutrition is low, where health systems are weak and where governments do not govern effectively.  

HIV/AIDS is a cultural issue.  Sexual practices are imbedded in culture.  Changing culture is hard work.  People suffering with HIV/AIDS are stigmatized and there is reluctance to discuss sex, death and dying. 

HIV/AIDS is a socio-economic issue.  Pastors, evangelists, doctors, teachers, civil servants are dying when they are in their most productive years.  Fewer have the strength to farm and famine follows.  Livelihoods are lost and economic opportunity fades.  Losing productive adults, combined with children raising their siblings, tears the fabric of society with implications for generations.  HIV/AIDS is consuming the future of nations.

HIV/AIDS is a justice issue.  People living with AIDS can extend their lives through use of antiretroviral drugs if only treatments become affordable.  Debt, trade, corruption and poor governance affect accessibility to adequate health systems, nutrition and livelihood.  Women, too often, are not permitted to inherit land when their husbands die. 

HIV/AIDS is a deception issue.  Too quickly and uncritically some churches have yielded to the temptation to wonder who sinned, this man or his father.  Condemnation and judgment have replaced grace and compassion.  Another deception is that HIV/AIDS can be reduced to biology and condoms alone.

HIV/AIDS is a compassion issue.  Throughout history, the church has cared for the sick and comforted the dying.  We must do the same today. 

HIV/AIDS is a world evangelization issue.  At the end of this century, the question will be:  Where were you when this diabolical holocaust worked its course in human history?  We evangelicals need to decide now what we need to be and what we need to do in order to be able to face our Lord when this question comes. 

If the evangelical church cares for the sick and the dying, comforts the orphan and widow, shares its message of redemption and transformation, disciples its members, and works for justice, then the worth and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ will shine like a light on the hill and the nations will stream toward it. 

Our call to action begins with a repentant spirit.  Our past practice of evangelism was better at saving souls than creating Christian minds and Christian behavior.  Some of us have been slow to respond HIV/AIDs.  Acknowledging this, we encourage:

  • Lausanne to speak out as a movement making a global call for action on HIV/AIDS to the evangelical churches
  • Lausanne to celebrate and learn from those among us who are already engaged.
  • Lausanne to encourage and speak prophetically to those who are not.

Holistic Mission Study Group

Human Rights, HIV/AIDS Prevention and Gender Equality. An Impossible Cocktail for Faith Based Organisations?

Statement on AIDS prevention and gender equality issued by nine European church agencies involved in international development

Faith Based Organisations must:
- Take leadership in fighting the AIDS pandemic.
- Take the issue of gender equality seriously and challenge norms of gender inequalities.
- Promote evidence based prevention including condom use.
- Promote basic sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- Recognise that empowering women is essential to a holistic HIV and AIDS strategy.
- Recognise that involving men both as right holders and as important duty-bearers to change unequal relationships is crucial.

Faith based organisations (FBO's) have a unique possibility and responsibility to address one of the most important drivers of the AIDS pandemic, namely gender inequality. FBO's provide moral and social leadership, establishing norms which determine how individuals with faith, and communities of individuals with faith, respond to HIV and AIDS concerns (for example, what prevention methods are acceptable, whether people living with HIV are stigmatised and discriminated against and which kind of gender behaviour that is considered acceptable). FBO's provide, therefore, extensive existing community-based structures for responding to HIV. At the same time dealing with human sexuality and gender equality is a real challenge to most FBO's.

Gender inequalities drive the AIDS pandemic

There is a global increasing feminisation of the HIV and AIDS pandemic with an increase in the proportion of women being infected with HIV. AIDS started as a disease mostly affecting men, but gradually this is changing. The global figures show an equal number of women and men being HIV positive. However looking at Sub-Saharan Africa, the region worst affected by HIV and AIDS, the ratio is 39% male to 61% female. Young women are the most affected and the most vulnerable group in most countries. Looking at young people between 15-24 years in Sub-Saharan Africa, the ratio is 26% male to 74% female.

Societal norms and cultural discourse in many countries reinforce patriarchal structures with gender norms that dictate women and girls to be passive and ignorant about sex. Therefore, their scope to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights is limited or they may even be unaware of these rights. At the same time unequal access to and lack of control over productive resources contribute to lead young girls and women in poor economic conditions to involve in risky behaviour such as transactional sex or sex work. Especially adolescent women and young girls are vulnerable and susceptible to HIV and AIDS due to biological reasons, discriminatory social and cultural practices and fundamental gender inequality. They lack basic sexual and reproductive health and rights that faith based organisations should be promoting. The right to decide freely when not to have children, to be protected from sexual coercion, genital mutilation or forced pregnancy and to have access to safe contraception that prevents the spread of HIV are key human rights and critical preconditions for any effective HIV prevention effort.

Men are also victims of unequal gender roles that expect men to always be in control and often expect them to act in ways that put their own health at risk. Generally men make up a low percentage of those accessing the VCT services and post test clubs. This suggests that gender stereotypes constrain men from taking an interest in their sexual health, with the implications that men will remain ignorant about STIs.

Churches and FBO's should connect gender equality and HIV prevention

To reflect the God given value of each human being, churches should work for an equal and respectful relationship between men and women. To most people of faith religion has a serious influence on their concept of gender roles, human sexuality and marriage. Therefore if FBO's are to participate and contribute to the prevention of further spread of HIV, the issue of gender justice must be taken seriously.

As long as men and women are defined as unequal, the control of HIV and AIDS will prove to be a challenge. This calls the church and its leadership to repent from baptising patriarchal relationships and to struggle with propounding a theology that affirms both men and women as made in God's image and equal before God (Gen 1:27). Jesus has long since set precedence by disregarding patriarchal power and calling into being a church that recognises the equality of man and woman. -- Rev. Japhet Ndhlovu, One Body, page 14

Faith based organisations must be challenged when they maintain and defend discriminatory and harmful norms and practices. FBO's have a responsibility to show leadership in fighting the pandemic. Instead of addressing and blaming individuals - particularly women - for the AIDS crisis, the responsibility for change should be given back to the local community ensuring that also women and girls participate. It is necessary to work and promote dialogue within the local context taking into account existing power relations. A comprehensive and inclusive approach based on advocacy for gender equality that encourages women and men in the local communities to promote social change is needed.

Women's social, political and economical empowerment

Many societies still marginalize women from access to property and decision-making. Besides, women may have limited possibilities to negotiate about safe sex and faithfulness in marriage/relationship. Further, a culture of violence has escalated so much in the HIV and AIDS era that many girls and women are subjected to sexual abuse and harmful practices that violate their sexual and reproductive rights and make them susceptible to HIV transmission. The formula of "abstaining" is defeated by underlying social ways of distributing power unequally. Therefore the much promoted ABC strategy is largely insufficient.

We must support activities that empower women, in particular young girls, to be more assertive in determining their own gender roles and claiming their sexual and reproductive rights. Women must be able to participate as equal citizens in their country's political and formal economic spheres; they must have the right to a life free from violence; they must have equal access to and control over productive resources; they must have greater access to information of prevention methods that put the power to prevent AIDS into their hands. Empowering women is essential to a holistic HIV and AIDS strategy.

In many societies legal structures do not sufficiently protect the rights of children, young people and women against sexual abuse and harmful cultural practices that violate their rights and make them susceptible to HIV transmission.

Involvement of men

Even when AIDS interventions do address gender issues they often fail to address men's gender roles. Only when programs are designed to directly address men's sexual behaviour can there be a significant reduction in the rate at which the pandemic is spreading. The main mode of transmission of HIV is through sexual intercourse. Men usually make decisions with whom, where and how to have sex. However men's sexual behaviour is a manifestation of prevalent gender norms and men often has to appear to be in control to maintain their status.

Involving men as important duty-bearers to change unequal relationships and promote more protective environments for young girls and women is crucial. We need to involve men as partners in social change, particularly in terms of challenging gender stereotypes that disempower women. Gender stereotypes also encourage double standards with multiple sexual partners for men and sexual ignorance for women. Men also need to be actively involved in ending sexual violence; and in protecting their own and their partner’s health by using preventive measures including condoms.

Life skills education and Condom promotion are key to prevention

Training in risk assessment and sexuality education will help young people to define personal moral norms and personal boundaries in order to prevent abuse and other vices that young people fall prey to. Life skills education to facilitate the formation of non risk taking sexual behaviour is key to prevent vulnerable young women and girls from being abused by older people. This will also help to prevent myths related to sexuality that lead young people to risky sexual behaviour. Ideally the life skills education should promote human rights and gender equality and address underlying determinants of vulnerability by promoting a culture that respects, promotes and protects the rights of all people.

Furthermore primary prevention of HIV through condom promotion is recognised as a cost-effective strategy. Condom promotion should be seen as complementary to other primary preventive strategies, but it is unfortunately still viewed as controversial by many FBO's and churches. The most detrimental to a HIV prevention programme is when FBO's actively work against condom promotion. A constructive evidence based dialogue on all preventive methods including condom use with such FBO's is essential - with a view to promote a policy shift.

Window of opportunity

A growing awareness of the gender aspects of HIV and AIDS has created a window of opportunity to address the disproportionate impact that the pandemic is having on women and girls. However in order to actually move from this recognition into concrete action is a major challenge and so far not enough is being done to address the gender dimensions of the pandemic. We believe that Faith based organisations are in a unique position to offer a sustainable and holistic approach to the field of HIV and AIDS - we should live up to the challenge and constructively fight the key drivers of the epidemic together.

Minute on Strengthening the Ecumenical Response to HIV/AIDS. 22/2/11

Imitating Christ’s Humility

World Council of Churches
22 February 2011

Imitating Christ’s Humility

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 2: 1,2,5)

1. The three decades of living with HIV and AIDS in our world has been a journey of revelation of our vulnerabilities and strengths as communities, churches and as individuals. Even though the world has made great progress in care, prevention and treatment, there are more than 33 million people living with HIV in the world today. While currently there are more than five million people on HIV treatment, nearly 10 million people are waiting to receive treatment. And though the spread of the disease has slowed in many regions, in 2009 there were an estimated 2.6 million new HIV infections worldwide.

2. WCC started to work on HIV and AIDS 25 years ago and many member churches have made great strides in dealing with HIV in a holistic manner. It is the tenth year of service of the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa, working with Churches and faith communities in accompanying people living with HIV and in transforming the theological perspectives in facing HIV and in striving to become compassionate and competent in confronting the root causes of the pandemic.

3. But the factors that make our communities vulnerable continue to challenge us. Poverty and inequity; violence and insecurity; broken relationships in families and communities; the low priority given to women and children in society; the inability to address the issues related to human sexuality and intravenous drug use; fragile livelihoods and lack of food security; lack of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, all contribute to this vulnerability.  The decline in international and national investments in countering HIV and the inertia in mainstreaming HIV prevention, care and treatment into our daily life, threatens to undo the gains that have been made over the decades.

The Central Committee of the WCC, meeting in Geneva 16-22 February 2011, calls the churches of the WCC to:

1. Remember the millions of lives lost to AIDS and to continue to uphold their families and communities in prayer and action.

2. Acknowledge the ongoing work of churches and faith communities in accompanying all those among us who live with HIV and those affected by the impact of the pandemic and to praise God for the witness of those living positively with HIV.

3. Review the work we have done thus far in our own contexts and to fully participate, with civil society and governments in the UN General Assembly Comprehensive AIDS Review to be held in June 2011.

4. Renew our commitment to serve communities in light of the changing face of the pandemic and the transforming needs of all people affected by the disease, including:

(a) children born with HIV approaching sexual maturity;

(b) couples where one or both are living with HIV;

(c) widows, widowers and orphans;

(d) communities, to ensure that universal access to prevention, care, support and treatment of HIV reach the millions who are yet to receive it.

5. Persevere in eliminating stigma and discrimination against those who are living with HIV and AIDS.

6. Strengthen the work of regional and national networks contributing to the ecumenical response to HIV, sharing good practises, experiences and resources.

7. Reaffirm our ecumenical commitment to ‘Live the Promise,’ strengthening the campaign of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, working with civil society to measure up to our responsibility and embracing the vision of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) ‘Zero new infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths’.

 

PACANet MCP Consultation Communique. 29/04/2010

 

Preamble

From 27th-29th April 2010 in Ezulwini, Swaziland, the Pan African Christian AIDS Network(PACANet) convened a consultation of senior Church leaders, Christian organisations and individuals involved in the response to HIV and AIDS in Africa, hosted by the Swaziland Church Forum on HIV and AIDS.

This event was held in collaboration with SIDA, UNAIDS, Christian Connections for International Health, ANHERTHA, and INERELA+. The purpose of the consultation was to provide a forum for key stakeholders to discuss the issue of multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships (MCP) as a risk behaviour for HIV. In attendance were 90 participants from 18 countries. The participants represented different church backgrounds, namely the African Instituted churches, the Evangelical movement and the mainline established churches.

PACANet is a continental networking body that seeks to link churches, Christian organizations and networks in Africa to enhance their HIV and AIDS responses by sharing ideas, skills, experiences and resources and to stimulate strategic partnerships. Given this mission, PACANet sought to rally participants around the issue of MCP, which is a key driver to HIV transmission.

 
Participants identified the following as some of the key factors that promote MCP: economic poverty, unhealthy cultural practices, negative peer influence, alcoholism, uncertainty about role functions and unrealistic expectations, a lack of intimacy within established marriages and sexual dissatisfaction, confusion about personal identity and spiritual immaturity, uncertainties about masculinities and femininities, the role of film and media.

Confession of faith

As Christians we believe that God created male and female, and a unique relationship between a man and a woman, which we call the institution of marriage. The Biblical understanding of marriage is a covenantal (permanency) union between a man and a woman. Relationship between man and woman should reflect the relationship of Christ and the Church. In order to exhibit this Christian understanding people are equipped by the Holy Spirit.

Acknowledgement of difficulties and challenges

We acknowledge:

·  The difficulties and the challenges of applying the Biblical principles to the realities of life issue as related to marriage.
·      *   That we have tended to be reactive rather than proactive in dealing with matters of marriage, sex and sexuality.
·       *  There is often a discrepancy between the values that we hold and the realities on the ground.
·       *  The pain and suffering that our silence and inaction have caused to many women, men and children.

Recommendations

We call for:

·      *   New patterns of thinking in the way we understand man and woman from a Biblical perspective in their equal dignity and complementarity.
·       *  Reflection and research on the authority of Scripture, and the use of the Bible in pastoral ministry.
·       *  Church leadership to lead by example and preach the gospel of life with honesty and integrity.
·       *  Journeying with our communities towards transforming negative and harmful cultural practices (illuminating realities) surrounding marriage and family life.
·       *  The reframing of the way in which males understand their unique identity so that they can respect women and be actively engaged in ending all forms of abuse (against women and girls), and vice versa.
·       *  Greater support for discordant couples, and widows and widowers who are living positively with HIV.
·       *  Strengthening and development of programmes for:
- Couples (pre-marriage preparation and ongoing marriage enrichment)
- Children and youth on sexuality (life skills, identity development and humane sexuality)
- Widows and widowers
- Singles
- Men (ministries targeting men to be involved in tackling MCP)
- Ministers (continuous theological education and capacity building on emerging issues relating to MCP)
·       *  More research on how MCP is related to promiscuity and what kind of ethics come into play when you have multiple and concurrent partners.
·      *   Greater pastoral care for those currently living in multiple and concurrent partnerships.
·       *  Engagement of the media to raise awareness of the dangers of MCP and to promote sound values for marriages, family, and human relationships.

Commitment

We commit ourselves to greater networking and partnership among ourselves and all other stakeholders (civil society, government, international partners and people living with HIV) in order to address the problematic issue of MCP in an appropriate and timely manner, given the unique African context and setting.

 

 

 

Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing. 1/10

More than 3,300 religious leaders from more than 50 religious traditions have endorsed the Religious Declaration.

Religious Institute
January 2010

More than 3,300 religious leaders from more than 50 religious traditions have endorsed the Religious Declaration, including clergy; professional religious educators and counselors; denominational and interfaith leaders; and seminary presidents, deans and faculty members.

We accept endorsements from ordained clergy, professional religious educators, theologians, and staff of religious institutions. If you do not fit into one of these categories, but would like to keep up on the work of the Religious Institute, please join our network.

Click here to Endorse the Religious Declaration

Sexuality is God's life-giving and life-fulfilling gift.  We come from diverse religious communities to recognize sexuality as central to our humanity and as integral to our spirituality.  We are speaking out against the pain, brokenness, oppression and loss of meaning that many experience about their sexuality.

Our faith traditions celebrate the goodness of creation, including our bodies and our sexuality.  We sin when this sacred gift is abused or exploited.  However, the great promise of our traditions is love, healing and restored relationships.

Our culture needs a sexual ethic focused on personal relationships and social justice rather than particular sexual acts.  All persons have the right and responsibility to lead sexual lives that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent and pleasure.  Grounded in respect for the body and for the vulnerability that intimacy brings, this ethic fosters physical, emotional and spiritual health.  It accepts no double standards and applies to all persons, without regard to sex, gender, color, age, bodily condition, marital status or sexual orientation.

God hears the cries of those who suffer from the failure of religious communities to address sexuality.  We are called today to see, hear and respond to the suffering caused by sexual abuse and violence against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, the HIV pandemic, unsustainable population growth and over-consumption, and the commercial exploitation of sexuality.

Faith communities must therefore be truth-seeking, courageous and just.  We call for:

·         Theological reflection that integrates the wisdom of excluded, often silenced peoples, and insights about sexuality from medicine, social science, the arts and humanities.
·         Full inclusion of women and LGBT persons in congregational life, including their ordination and marriage equality.
·         Sexuality counseling and education throughout the lifespan from trained religious leaders.
·         Support for those who challenge sexual oppression and who work for justice within their congregations and denominations.

Faith communities must also advocate for sexual and spiritual wholeness in society.  We call for:

·         Lifelong, age-appropriate sexuality education in schools, seminaries and community settings.
·         A faith-based commitment to sexual and reproductive rights, including access to voluntary contraception, abortion, and HIV/STI prevention and treatment.
·         Religious leadership in movements to end sexual and social injustice.

God rejoices when we celebrate our sexuality with holiness and integrity.  We, the undersigned, invite our colleagues and faith communities to join us in promoting sexual morality, justice, and healing.

 

Resolutions of the Conference on HIV and AIDS, Maternal Health and Gender-Based Violence for Senior Religious Leaders in Uganda, 13th - 15th April, 2010

 

This document is a statement concerning AIDS, maternal health, gender-based violence. The document encourages the appicable reader to undertake stated actions;

Find the attached document below (Word document, 376 KB, 15pg)

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South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms. 10/09

 SOUTH AFRICAN CHARTER OF RELIGIOUS RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

(As amended 6th August and 1st October 2009)

At the Management Committee meeting of 3 June 2010, it was decided that CABSA would endorse the draft charter.
( You can read more about the motivation for the Charter and the progress to date in the attachment below)

PREAMBLE

1.      WHEREAS human beings have inherent dignity, and a capacity and need to believe and organise their beliefs in accordance with their foundational documents, tenets of faith or traditions; and
2.      WHEREAS this capacity and need determine their lives and are worthy of protection; and
3.      WHEREAS religious belief embraces all of life, including the state, and the constitutional recognition and protection of the right to freedom of religion is an important mechanism for the equitable regulation of the relationship between the state and religious institutions; and
4.      WHEREAS religious institutions are entitled to enjoy recognition, protection and cooperation in a constitutional state as institutions that function with jurisdictional independence; and
5.      WHEREAS it is recognised that rights impose the corresponding duty on everyone in society to respect the rights of others; and
6.      WHEREAS the state through its governing institutions has the responsibility to govern justly, constructively and impartially in the interest of everybody in society; and
7.      WHEREAS religious belief may deepen our understanding of justice, love, compassion, cultural diversity, democracy, human dignity, equality, freedom, rights and obligations, as well as our understanding of the importance of community and relationships in our lives and in society, and may therefore contribute to the common good; and
8.      WHEREAS the recognition and effective protection of the rights of religious communities and institutions will contribute to a spirit of mutual respect and tolerance among the people of South Africa,

NOW THEREFORE THE FOLLOWING South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms is hereby enacted:

1.      Every person has the right to believe according to their own religious or philosophical beliefs or convictions (hereinafter convictions), and to choose which faith, worldview, religion, or religious institution to subscribe to, affiliate with or belong to.
2.      No person may be forced to believe, what to believe or what not to believe, or to act against their convictions.
2.1.   Every person has the right to change their faith, religion, convictions or religious institution, or to form a new religious community or religious institution.
2.2.   Every person has the right to have their convictions reasonably accommodated.
2.3.   Every person has the right on the ground of their convictions to refuse (a) to perform certain duties, or to participate or indirectly to assist in, certain activities, such as of a military or educational nature, or (b) to deliver, or to refer for, certain services, including medical or related (including pharmaceutical) services or procedures.
2.4.   Every person has the right to have their convictions taken into account in receiving or withholding medical treatment.
2.5.   No person may be subjected to any form of force or indoctrination that may destroy,

change or compromise their religion, beliefs or worldview.
3.      Every person has the right to the impartiality and protection of the state in respect of religion.
3.1.   The state must create a positive and safe environment for the exercise of religious freedom, but may not promote, favour or prejudice a particular faith, religion or conviction, and may not indoctrinate anyone in respect of religion. In approving a plan for the development of land, the state must consider religious needs.
3.2.   No person may be unfairly discriminated against on the ground of their faith, religion, or religious affiliation.
4.      Subject to the duty of reasonable accommodation and the need to provide essential services, every person has the right to the private or public, and individual or joint, observance or exercise of their convictions, which may include but are not limited to reading and discussion of sacred texts, confession, proclamation, worship, prayer, witness, arrangements, attire, appearance, diet, customs, rituals and pilgrimages, and the observance of religious and other sacred days of rest, festivals and ceremonies.
4.1.   Every person has the right to private access to sacred places and burial sites relevant to their convictions. Such access, and the preservation of such places and sites, must be regulated within the law and with due regard for property rights.
4.2.   Every person has the right to associate with others, and to form, join and maintain religious and other associations, institutions and denominations, organise religious meetings and other collective activities, and establish and maintain places of religious practice, the sanctity of which shall be respected.
4.3.   Every person has the right to communicate within the country and internationally with individuals and institutions, and to travel, visit, meet and enter into relationships or association with them.
4.4.   Every person has the right to conduct single-faith religious observances, expression and activities in state or state-aided institutions, as long as such observances, expression and activities follow rules made by the appropriate public authorities, are conducted on an equitable basis, and attendance at them is free and voluntary.
5.      Every person has the right to maintain traditions and systems of religious personal, matrimonial and family law that are consistent with the Constitution. Legislation that is consistent with the Constitution may be made to recognise marriages concluded under any tradition, or a system of religious, personal or family law, or to recognise systems of personal and family law under any tradition, or adhered to by persons professing a particular religion.
6.      Every person has the right to freedom of expression in respect of religion.
6.1.   Every person has the right (a) to make public statements and participate in public

debate on religious grounds, (b) to produce, publish and disseminate religious publications and other religious material, and (c) to conduct scholarly research and related activities in accordance with their convictions.
6.2.   Every person has the right to share their convictions with another consenting person.
6.3.   Every religious institution has the right to have access to public media which access must be regulated fairly.
6.4.   Every person has the right to religious dignity, which includes not to be victimised, ridiculed or slandered on the ground of their faith, religion, convictions or religious activities. No person may advocate hatred that is based on religion, and that constitutes incitement to violence or to cause physical harm.
7.      Every person has the right to be educated or to educate their children, or have them educated, in accordance with their religious or philosophical convictions.
7.1.   The state, including any public school, has the duty to respect this right and to inform

and consult with parents on these matters. Parents may withdraw their children from school activities or programs inconsistent with their religious or philosophical convictions.
7.2.   Every educational institution may adopt a particular religious or other ethos, as long as it is observed in an equitable, free, voluntary and non-discriminatory way, and with due regard to the rights of minorities.
7.3.   Every private educational institution established on the basis of a particular religion, philosophy or faith may impart its religious or other convictions to all children enrolled in that institution, and may refuse to promote, teach or practice any religious or other conviction other than its own. Children enrolled in that institution (or their parents) who do not subscribe to the religious or other convictions practised in that institution waive their right to insist not to participate in the religious activities of the institution.
8.      Every person has the right to receive and provide religious education, training and instruction. The state may subsidise such education, training and instruction.
9.      Every religious institution has the right to institutional freedom of religion.
9.1.   Every religious institution has the right (a) to determine its own confessions, doctrines and ordinances, (b) to decide for itself in all matters regarding its doctrines and ordinances, and (c) in accordance with the principles of tolerance, fairness, openness and accountability to regulate its own internal affairs, including organisational structures and procedures, the ordination, conditions of service, discipline and dismissal of officebearers and members, the appointment, conditions of employment and dismissal of employees and volunteers, and membership requirements.
9.2.   Every religious institution is recognised and protected as an institution that has authority over its own affairs, and towards which the state, through its governing institutions, is responsible for just, constructive and impartial government in the interest of everybody.
9.3.   The state, including the judiciary, must respect the authority of every religious institution over its own affairs, and may not regulate or prescribe matters of doctrine and ordinances.
9.4.   The confidentiality of the internal affairs and communications of a religious institution must be respected. The privileged nature of any religious communication that has been made with an expectation of confidentiality must be respected insofar as the interest of justice permits.
9.5.   Every religious institution is subject to the law of the land. A religious institution must be able to justify any non-observance of a law resulting from the exercise of the rights in this Charter.
10. The state may allow tax, charitable and other benefits to any religious institution that qualifies as a juristic person.
11. Every person has the right, for religious purposes and in furthering their objectives, to solicit, receive, manage, allocate and spend voluntary financial and other forms of support and contributions. The confidentiality of such support and contributions must be respected.

Every person has the right on religious or other grounds, and in accordance with their ethos, and irrespective of whether they receive state-aid, and of whether they serve persons with different convictions, to conduct relief, upliftment, social justice, developmental, charity and welfare work in the community, establish, maintain and contribute to charity and welfare associations, and solicit, manage, distribute and spend funds for this purpose.

© Copyright: Continuation Committee, South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms
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South African Charter and Council of Religious Rights and Freedoms. 27/10/2010

South African Charter And Council of Religious Rights And Freedoms

On Thursday 21 October 2010 a South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms was endorsed, amongst other, by:

• most of the major religions in South Africa:
- the Jewish religion;
- Christians (24 denominations and religious bodies);
- the Muslim religion (Muslim Judicial Council and Ismaeli Community);
- the Hindu religion;
- the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of South Africa;
- African Traditional Religions; and
- African Independent Churches.
• The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities;
• Theologians and other academics from various universities;
• Women’s movements;
• Youth Movements;
• The Christian education desk of the DRC;
• The Griekwa Independent Church;
• The Religious Department (Genre) of the SABC Television;
• The Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa;
• The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa;
• Transworld Radio; and
• Media Production Houses.

The signatories represent millions of adherents to and supporters of the religions in South Africa. They are now the owners and trustees of the Charter. After the endorsement ceremony a South African Council for the Protection and Promotion of Religious Rights and Freedoms was established. A Steering Committee was also appointed to prepare a Constitution for the Council.

The Council will seeks ways and means to protect and promote religious rights and freedoms in South Africa and also to bring the Charter before Parliament to enact it as a law of the land. In the meantime religious communities are encouraged to make the Charter part of their official documents.

The keynote speaker for the day was the Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa, Mr Dikgang Moseneke. In an interview with SABC 3 after his address he described the Charter and it’s endorsement as a historical moment in history of South Africa.

The Charter is available in six of the official languages of South Africa. Religious communities and individuals who have not yet endorsed the Charter can still do so, by contacting the address below.

P Coertzen

(Convenor Steering Committee of the SA Council for Religious Rights and Liberties)

pc@sun.ac.za or hvdwest@sun.ac.za ; tel 021 887 2619

Website: www.sun.ac.za/theology/religious-charter

Stellenbosch

27 October 2010

Statement from Summit of High Level Religious Leaders held 22-23 March 2010 in The Netherlands

 
 
Responsible Partnership
Challenging Stigma and Discrimination: HIV prevention in action
 
 

Statement

This Summit has brought together High Level Religious Leaders from the Baha’í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and indigenous traditions. Religious leaders have been accompanied by people living with HIV from within and outside of our faith communities, representatives of networks and organizations active in the response to HIV, political leaders and leaders of UN agencies in this meeting. The summit met in Den Dolder near Utrecht in the Netherlands from 21 to 23 March 2010. 

We have recognized, with a renewed sense of urgency, the scale and continued growth of the the HIV pandemic globally. Almost thirty years after the first identification of HIV, inspite of the science which has been developed, and notwithstanding the considerable moral and global material resources that we have access to, we have continued to witness the pandemic escalating. It grows exponentially; for every two people put on treatment there are another five newly infected. Changing the current trajectory of the HIV pandemic will involve holistic prevention including Safer Practices, Available medical and nutritional interventions, Voluntary counselling and testing and Empowerment (SAVE). In addition, the prevention must challenge stigma, shame, denial, discrimination, inaction and misaction (SSDDIM).

We are cognizant of the invaluable role of the faith communities in the pandemic so far, particularly relating to treatment, care and support. We affirm the dignity and value of human life. With remorse we regret that those living with HIV have at times been at the receiving end of judgement, rejection, a limited ability to embrace and affirm humanity in its diversity and to recognize how we and our faiths are all implicated in this pandemic. We need to make greater efforts to ensure that all people living with HIV find a welcome within faith communities. We recognise and embrace the call on all religious leaders and communities to respond urgently and inclusively to challenges posed by HIV and AIDS, not only in relation to treatment, care and support, but also the prevention of HIV transmission.

HIV affects every human being, every woman and man, every child, every community including religious leaders. Stigma and discrimination foster an environment that exacerbates vulnerability to HIV infection which would not exist if we could collectively create a safe environment of acceptance and inclusion relating to HIV. Secrecy and silence keep a variety of vulnerable populations from accessing prevention services, testing and treatment in relation to HIV. We must work to end the silence that fosters stigma and discrimination.

Social, political and economic conditions create a climate within which the vulnerability that drives the HIV pandemic grows. This is exacerbated by the increasing dislocation of families and communities through economic and humanitarian crises. We need to realign our messages to speak and act not only for personal morality and responsibility, but for communal morality and responsibility addressing urgency for financial, social and economic justice.  The HIV pandemic is both complex and multifaceted and demands that we work together. Working out of our areas of strength, we can achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support.

Call to Action

As such we call for:

·         Attitudes and actions that affirm universal respect for the dignity of every human being;
·         Universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support;
·          Universal respect for the human rights of all people living with and affected by and at risk of HIV infection;
·         Community support for caregivers;
·         The education, empowerment and accompaniment of orphans and other vulnerable children;
·         Listen to the voices of young people and creating spaces for their leadership and participation;
·         Concerted efforts and programmes for the eradication of stigma and discrimination in all its manifestations towards people living with HIV regardless of how they became infected;
·         Retaining Health and HIV as key priorities in the global funding agenda, despite the current financial crisis;
·         Tackling stigma and discrimination through HIV and AIDS policy, strategic plans, budgets and resource allocations;
·         Countries and agencies that have appointed HIV Ambassadors to be commended and to be strongly encouraged to maintain this witness to engagement and prioritizing of HIV;
·         A massive social mobilization to prevent vertical transmission of HIV from parent to child including care and support to the parents and care givers;
·         Men strongly engaged, alongside the women’s movement, in action to end all forms of violence against women and girls;
·         Countries to openly acknowledge and know their own pandemics and to respond to all vulnerable people within their own countries and communities;
·         Countries and communities to work for the total eradication of the HIV pandemic;
·         Religious leaders to continue the dialogue around HIV related stigma and discrimination started in Den Dolder with religious leaders in their countries and communities;
·         Media campaigns to communicate the importance of religious leadership in relation to HIV.

Commitment

We commit ourselves to a partnership between faith communities, broader civil society, government and other international partners, always involving People living with HIV at all levels. We hold each other accountable in this partnership, eradicating stigma and discrimination and jointly enabling the universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support which will lead us to a new world, a world of respect, justice, love and dignity for all of our world’s people.

Together We Must Do More - Personal Commitment from Leaders at Summit of High Level Religious Leaders. 24/03/2010

 Together We Must Do More

 
My Personal Commitment to Action
 
As a religious leader, I am convinced that my faith must be more visible and active to halt the spread of HIV and reverse this pandemic.
For three decades now, HIV has continued to spread across all levels of our societies. Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV continues to fuel ignorance, injustice, denial and hate. At this critical point in the epidemic, I need to be clear in my words and actions that stigma and discrimination towards people living with or affected by HIV is unacceptable.
Fundamental to my faith is the respect for human dignity and the value of human life. Such respect and value is central to my response to HIV.
Therefore, I commit to exercising stronger, more visible, and practical leadership in the response to the HIV pandemic - increasing commitment, deepening meaningful engagement with people living with HIV, and acting decisively to protect human rights within my faith community; through collaboration among other religious leaders of different faiths; and by influencing local, national, regional and global decision-making processes on HIV.
Conscious of the specific needs of all those affected by HIV, this leadership means…
To people living with HIV, I commit myself to:
-          working tirelessly to end all stigmatizing attitudes and actions until people living with HIV are fully included in our religious communities and societies;
-          supporting concerted efforts and partnerships to provide support including health care and education in ways that respect privacy and dignity;
-          seeking to understand and respond to the specific needs and situations of different communities affected by HIV to enable all people living with HIV to participate fully in society;
-          providing spiritual support and resources to give hope and enable positive living, assuring you that HIV cannot separate you from love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness.
To children, I commit to:
-          Recognizing your rights, including health, education and support, that will help you celebrate childhood and learn values and ethical practices for safer and healthier living.
To young people, I commit to:
-          Listening to your needs and empowering you with the values and support to help protect you from violence and suppression and from behaviours that create risks for yourself and others;
-          Enabling and facilitating your leadership and participation. 
To women and girls, I commit to:
-          Recognizing your special vulnerability and roles as caregivers and mothers and working tirelessly to ensure you have the services you require for prevention, treatment, care and support.
-          Exercising respect and challenging any oppressive systems of power within my religious community and society which fuel violence and injustice;
-          Providing space for your voice and leadership in our communities.
To men and boys, I commit to:
-          Encouraging understanding of power that allows people to relate to one another with dignity and love.
-          Supporting leadership and decision making that addresses the root causes of HIV.
To my religious community, I commit to:
-          Doing all I can to break the barriers of silence and exclusion to fully and openly include people living with HIV and their families in our religious communities;
-          Leading by example and encouraging my religious community to deepen its engagement in the response to HIV, including advocating for prevention, treatment, care and support for all.
To networks, organizations and public institutions, I commit to:
-          Fully supporting all efforts to extend services and support that will enable an HIV-free generation by 2015;
-          Challenging and supporting governments to meet their moral duty to implement their promises on HIV in their priorities, practices and financial support.
-          partnering with you to combine our experiences, approaches and expertise to reach our common goal of halting the spread of HIV and reversing the pandemic.
To those I am addressing in this pledge and to other religious leaders who join me in this covenant/pledge, I commit to:
 
-          reporting through available channels every 18 months[1] how I have worked to fulfill my pledge.
 
Signed:
 
 
_____________________________________________________________



[1] This would be: September 2011, March 2013 and September 2014.

WCC Minute on Strengthening the Ecumenical Response to HIV/AIDS 23/2/2011

Imitating Christ’s Humility

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 2: 1,2,5)

1. The three decades of living with HIV and AIDS in our world has been a journey of revelation of our vulnerabilities and strengths as communities, churches and as individuals. Even though the world has made great progress in care, prevention and treatment, there are more than 33 million people living with HIV in the world today. While currently there are more than five million people on HIV treatment, nearly 10 million people are waiting to receive treatment. And though the spread of the disease has slowed in many regions, in 2009 there were an estimated 2.6 million new HIV infections worldwide.

2. WCC started to work on HIV and AIDS 25 years ago and many member churches have made great strides in dealing with HIV in a holistic manner. It is the tenth year of service of the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa, working with Churches and faith communities in accompanying people living with HIV and in transforming the theological perspectives in facing HIV and in striving to become compassionate and competent in confronting the root causes of the pandemic.

3. But the factors that make our communities vulnerable continue to challenge us. Poverty and inequity; violence and insecurity; broken relationships in families and communities; the low priority given to women and children in society; the inability to address the issues related to human sexuality and intravenous drug use; fragile livelihoods and lack of food security; lack of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, all contribute to this vulnerability.  The decline in international and national investments in countering HIV and the inertia in mainstreaming HIV prevention, care and treatment into our daily life, threatens to undo the gains that have been made over the decades.

The Central Committee of the WCC, meeting in Geneva 16-22 February 2011, calls the churches of the WCC to:

1. Remember the millions of lives lost to AIDS and to continue to uphold their families and communities in prayer and action.

2. Acknowledge the ongoing work of churches and faith communities in accompanying all those among us who live with HIV and those affected by the impact of the pandemic and to praise God for the witness of those living positively with HIV.

3. Review the work we have done thus far in our own contexts and to fully participate, with civil society and governments in the UN General Assembly Comprehensive AIDS Review to be held in June 2011.

4. Renew our commitment to serve communities in light of the changing face of the pandemic and the transforming needs of all people affected by the disease, including:

(a) children born with HIV approaching sexual maturity;

(b) couples where one or both are living with HIV;

(c) widows, widowers and orphans;

(d) communities, to ensure that universal access to prevention, care, support and treatment of HIV reach the millions who are yet to receive it.

5. Persevere in eliminating stigma and discrimination against those who are living with HIV and AIDS.

6. Strengthen the work of regional and national networks contributing to the ecumenical response to HIV, sharing good practises, experiences and resources.

7. Reaffirm our ecumenical commitment to ‘Live the Promise,’ strengthening the campaign of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, working with civil society to measure up to our responsibility and embracing the vision of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) ‘Zero new infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths’.

APPROVED

Triune God, our healer and strength, we bring to you the pain of the world and those who live under the shadow of death due to the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Forgive us for our complacency and our failure to act sufficiently, and to hold those in power accountable. We pray that you help us to see the face of Christ in all who are living with HIV, to help and support each other with compassion and love. We also pray that you grant us the grace and courage to make ourselves and our communities less vulnerable to HIV. Amen.

Women, HIV and Rights. World YWCA Statement for World AIDS Day. 01/12/09

YWCA

Geneva, December 1, 2009: The latest research on women's health indicates that lack of contraception and unsafe sex are the crucial risk factors for death and disability in women of reproductive age (15 - 49 years old). Unsafe sex can result in unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortions, reproductive complications and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death and disability among 15 - 19 years old young women living in developing countries [1]. Globally, for women of reproductive age, AIDS related illnesses are the leading cause of death and disease. Women's health, especially their sexual and reproductive health, is therefore an important issue for the wellbeing and development of future generations and the communities they live in.

Several international instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action, mandate governments to ensure safe motherhood for all women. However, the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of women living with HIV are often ignored. Many pregnant HIV-positive women experience human rights violations at various stages of their reproductive years.

Globally an estimated 17.5 million women are currently living with HIV. The number of new HIV infections continues to outstrip the numbers on treatment-for every two people starting treatment, a further five become infected with the virus [2] . Although treatment has increased and the percentage of HIV-positive pregnant women who received treatment to prevent vertical transmission increased from 33 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2008, HIV-positive women are often encouraged not to have children. In some countries, access to HIV treatment is tied to women agreeing to use contraceptives [3]. In one study [4], 45 percent of women diagnosed HIV-positive were told not to have any more children-only 18 percent of positive men were given the same advice, suggesting that health-care workers place responsibility for contraception on women.

In addition, there are an increasing number of documented cases of pregnant HIV positive women being coerced into sterilization or denied care because of their HIV status. Many HIV-positive women face stigma and discrimination when planning a pregnancy or seeking pre-natal care. D'addy, a 21-year-old member of the YWCA of Congo Brazzaville, experienced discrimination after an HIV test at a pre-natal clinic revealed that she was HIV-positive. When her labour begun, she returned to the clinic. The nurses recognised her from her earlier visit, remembered her HIV status and refused to assist her. She gave birth alone. D'addy survived, but her baby died.

D'addy shared her story at the YWCA Regional Training Institute (RTI) held in June 2009 in Lagos, Nigeria where participants committed to promote the reproductive rights of HIV positive women. This commitment was also made at the RTI held in the Caribbean in May. The RTIs explored strategies to strengthen YWCA's response to SRHR, HIV and AIDS and violence against women.

But there is hope for women living with HIV. Sophia, a 30-year old volunteer with the YWCA of Mozambique also shared her story with the participants at the African RTI. Sophia is planning on having a family. Although she is HIV-positive and her partner is HIV-negative, she has received the support and guidance from the YWCA and health-care professionals in her hometown. The government provides her with free treatment and her doctor closely monitors her health as she prepares to conceive a child. Sophia is full of hope for the future.

As civil society continues to push for Universal Access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by the end of 2010, it is essential that governments and world leaders understand that for universal access to be truly universal, the human rights of young women and women living with HIV must also be upheld.
Below are four actions that governments, international organisations and civil society can take to ensure the sexual and reproductive health and rights of HIV positive women:

  1. Empower women living with HIV by providing access to information on their sexual and reproductive health and rights
  2. Invest in HIV comprehensive prevention strategies that are grounded in sexual and reproductive health and rights and that ensure access to comprehensive services to meet the needs of all women - especially women living with HIV
  3. Support laws and policies that create a safe and secure world that protect the rights of HIV positive women to make free and responsible choices for their sexual and reproductive health
  4. Provide safe spaces without stigma and discrimination, especially for women living with HIV

[1] Women and Health, Today's Evidence, Tomorrow's Agenda [2] UNAIDS AIDS Epidemic Update 2009 [3] ICW. 2006. Mapping of experiences of access to care, treatment and support - Namibia. [4] Asia Pacific Network of People living with HIV. 2004. AIDS discrimination in Asia.

 

From the Faith Cluster of the WC End-hate Campaign 15/11/2009

 Statement from spiritual leaders of several Spiritual Communities and Churches in Cape Town.

Vuurkairos
To whom it may concern
We, the under signers, spiritual leaders of several Spiritual Communities and Churches in Cape Town met on 10th November 2009 to discuss issues facing our LGBTI community. We were grateful for the spirit in which we could meet, and during our gathering became increasingly aware of the impending need for the creation of a common space where we can continue to gather for spiritual nurturing and in support of each other. In the spirit of creating such a space, we decided to continue to meet and wish to invite other spiritual leaders of the LGBTI/Queer community who wish to join us.
We are conscious of the fact that our community is currently facing many challenges, including the recent announcement by members of the NILC who expressed their interest in revising same sex laws in South Africa. As members of our young democracy, in which our rights and that of other minorities are constitutionally protected, we want to ensure our community is well represented and has a powerful, unified and clear voice in defence of our constitutional rights to freedom, equality, dignity and respect. The adherence to these universal Human Rights will drive our agenda.
We agreed to continue to strengthen this awareness within our own communities, as well as building a stronger network of friends and supporters of our community. We will also continue to be vigilant and monitor any new developments as they arise.
Upon closing our meeting, each one of us committed to bringing another spiritual leader to our next gathering to take place on 9th December 2009. If you are a spiritual leader within our community, or if you know of such leaders within our community who, transcending his faith or religious affiliation, might wish to join our gatherings, please let us know. We would love to meet you and have you at our next gathering.
Imam Muhsin Hendricks – The Inner Circle
Rev. Laurie Gaum – Inclusive and Affirming Ministries
Rev. Pressley Sutherland – GoodHopeMetropolitanCommunityChurch
Rev. Gabriel Gonsalves – Agape Spiritual Community
 

Statements - World AIDS Day. 03/12/07

 

Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO Message. 01/12/07

Message from Mr Koïchiro Matsuura,

Director-General of UNESCO

on the occasion

of World AIDS Day 2007

1 December 2007

AIDS, a disease which was not even known a quarter of a century ago, is now the
fourth leading cause of death in the world. Today, approximately 40 million people
are living with HIV, and in every region of the world, the proportion of women
among those who are becoming newly infected with HIV is increasing. Sub-
Saharan Africa continues to bear the brunt of this global epidemic, with life
expectancy in the hardest hit countries shortened by more than 20 years. And,
despite significant efforts by governments, civil society, and international
development partners, young people between the ages of 15 and 25 comprise
around half of new HIV infections.

AIDS remains a disease of inequality. Gender inequality, driven largely by the
highly disadvantaged social and economic status of women compared to men,
compounds women’s biological vulnerability to HIV. Social inequality, fuelled by
stigma and discrimination, prejudice and human rights violations, affects the ability
of key populations including injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and
sex workers, to access HIV prevention, treatment and care services. Young people,
because of their age and other socio-cultural barriers, are often denied access to
the full range of information and services required to prevent HIV infection and to
meet their treatment, care and other support needs. Finally, economic inequalities
can lead to abuses of power and increased sexual risk-taking, as evidenced by
those engaging in transactional sex to procure food or other basic needs for
themselves and their children. 

Read more below...

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Press Statement from 1st African Dialogue on Sexuality and Christian Faith. 06/11/2009

Hosted by Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) in partnership with The Rainbow Project (TRP) of Namibia from 2-5 November 2009, Stellenbosch

The past few days 77 participants from 13 African countries met for the first time ever to dialogue about the issue of sexual orientation from a Christian faith perspective. The participants included clergy (pastors, Bishops, National Church Council leadership and Academics) and an equal number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersexed (LGBTI) people, of whom a few were also clergy. The countries represented were Botswana, DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

During the Introduction we discussed Faith, Cultural and Human Rights issues that made this dialogue necessary: polarization in the Church, diversity in Bible interpretation, patriarchy, lack of knowledge, the fear of persecution of LGBTI people and all those in solidarity with them, laws criminalizing homosexuality in most African countries and right–wing USA groups influencing the agenda of Church and Politics, as in Uganda (read statement attached as appendix).
We introduced the method of DIALOGUE as the preferred Biblical way in which people of faith should discuss this very sensitive, and to many painful, issues – as opposed to DEBATE which only polarizes, rather than pull us together. During the very first session the participants grew to appreciate the safe space that this method of dialogue offered them and started to share freely and often very personally.
Participants moved from a place of fear to a place of empowerment and hope. LGBTI individuals were initially fearful, because of their history of rejection and persecution by the church or government laws, were apprehensive of their fellow clergy participants and on the other hand some clergy admitted that they have never before been exposed to LGBTI Christians.
We experienced dialogue as a way to grapple with the challenges we are facing regarding sexual orientation and our faith. We were able to listen to the stories and testimonies of painful and challenging journeys that touched us all, without fear of rejection and condemnation. The dialogue offered us for the first time to be hopeful of a journey that can bind us together as fellow Christians, rather than divide us.
We therefore affirm and call upon all fellow African Christians to engage in dialogue in finding our way forward, together. There is a great need for safe spaces for dialogue within our faith communities. We need to listen more deeply to all the diverse journeys fellow Christians on our continent are finding themselves on regarding their spirituality and sexuality.
We acknowledged that there are major stumbling blocks that hinder us from fully engaging in dialogue, these include:
· lack of knowledge about sexual orientation,
· scriptural interpretations,
· silence and often invisibility of LGBTI people within faith communities,
· taboo’s on discussing sexuality in Africa,
· hierarchical church structures,
· oppressive laws etc.
These stumbling blocks forced most of the Church into debate ABOUT the issue rather than engage WITH fellow brothers and sisters who happen to be LGBTI.
We entered into a hopeful journey of finding and discussing stepping stones for us in Africa to enable us to start a long and rewarding dialogue process.
· provide information to lessen ignorance
· commitment from participants to create safe spaces for dialogue in their countries
· reading Scripture inclusively that reflects the spirit of love and compassion of the Gospel
· In order to counteract stereotyping – training and education of the media
· Telling our stories through our culture and faith communities in order to bring more exposure
· The importance of self acceptance and affirmation of LGBTI people etc.
We believe God has gifted us with both sexuality and spirituality as aspects of our humanity. It is our duty and responsibility, as members of the same Body of Christ, to affirm amidst our diversity and differences that all of us are made in the image of God. We are equal in value and thus deserve to commit ourselves to this process of encounter, listening and sharing.
We belief that the Holy Spirit is guiding us through dialogue to find our way forward, even in the face of so much fear, anger, pain and even hatred.
APPENDICS
We have asked all participants to share the letter underneath from one of our Ugandan participants with their constituencies and call for more tolerance in their country.
We also submit this letter to this press conference for the notice of the wider public in the hope that the South African Council of Churches and worldwide Christian Bodies will give it their serious attention:
A CALL ON CHRISTIANS TO OPPOSE THE BAHATI’S HATE BILL WHICH HAS BEEN TABLED BEFORE THE UGANDAN PARLIAMENT
“Every day millions of Christians pray to be spared from being put to the test. This prayer is especially applicable for Christians everywhere in regard to the “anti- homosexuality bill”, which has been put to parliament in Uganda, by Member of Parliament Bahati. This extremely unpleasant proposed bill targets not only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people but also Human Rights and HIV/AIDS prevention activists and people in positions of trust and authority. While some in the church are backing and propelling the bill, other Christians face a challenge to the principles at the heart of their faith.” This statement reiterates why all Christians everywhere should not support this HATE bill:
- The bill breaks rather than build the family. It makes family members ‘spies’ of each other rather than “keepers” of one another. It turns parents into prosecutors of their children and siblings into accusers of one another.
- It makes everyone suspicious of any kind of affection in case it is interpreted as intent to commit homosexuality.
- It undermines and totally dispels the place of compassion, understanding, and love within the Christian Faith.
- It totally undermines the pivotal role of grace in the Christian Faith. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us…” The work of salvation was done for us before we were aware of it or even accepted it. God’s gift of love was not dependent on our identities or sexuality or even willingness to acknowledge the gift. It was just given. The Church has the duty to exemplify this understanding and demonstration of love.
The same scriptures that are being used to persecute and demonize LGBTI people are very clear on the duty of all Christians to bear with one another’s differences – to be tolerant, to desist from judgment, and to practice the golden rule where we give others the treatment that we would have
Some people think that being homosexual, we are sinners but many people know that we are children of God created in God’s image. Whatever you believe, we call upon you to appreciate that Bahati’s bill is not about any of this; it is not even about homosexuality. It is about politics. It is about hate. It is about intolerance. Among its draconian and hate-inciting provisions, the bill proposes that;
- Any person alleged to be homosexual would be at risk of life imprisonment or in some circumstances the death penalty;
- Any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities would face fines of $ 2,650.00 or three years in prison;
- Any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours would face the same penalties;
- And any landlord or landlady who happens to give housing to a suspected homosexual would risk 7 years of imprisonment.
- Similarly, the Bill threatens to punish or ruin the reputation of anyone who works with the gay or lesbian population, such as medical doctors working on HIV/AIDS, civil society leaders active in the fields of sexual and reproductive health, hence further undermining public health efforts to combat the spread of HIV;
God calls on all of us to act with compassion, not to call for unfair treatment and oppression of those with a minority voice. God calls on all of us to build family, not to tear it apart by sowing seeds of discord, hatred, suspicion, and intolerance. God calls on all of us to understand and appreciate our differences not to use these to oppress one another.
Even if you think that homosexuality is a sin, we call upon you to oppose this bill.

South African Charter Of Religious Rights And Freedoms. 01/10/09

 (As amended 6th August and 1st October 2009)

PREAMBLE
1.      WHEREAS human beings have inherent dignity, and a capacity and need to believe and organise their beliefs in accordance with their foundational documents, tenets of faith or traditions; and
2       WHEREAS this capacity and need determine their lives and are worthy of protection; and
3       WHEREAS religious belief embraces all of life, including the state, and the constitutional recognition and protection of the right to freedom of religion is an important mechanism for the equitable regulation of the relationship between the state and religious institutions; and
4       WHEREAS religious institutions are entitled to enjoy recognition, protection and co-operation in a constitutional state as institutions that function with jurisdictional independence; and
5       WHEREAS it is recognised that rights impose the corresponding duty on everyone in society to respect the rights of others; and
6       WHEREAS the state through its governing institutions has the responsibility to govern justly, constructively and impartially in the interest of everybody in society; and
7       WHEREAS religious belief may deepen our understanding of justice, love, compassion, cultural diversity, democracy, human dignity, equality, freedom, rights and obligations, as well as our understanding of the importance of community and relationships in our lives and in society, and may therefore contribute to the common good; and
8       WHEREAS the recognition and effective protection of the rights of religious communities and institutions will contribute to a spirit of mutualrespect and tolerance among the people of South Africa,
 
NOW THEREFORE THE FOLLOWING South AfricanCharter of Religious Rights and Freedomsis hereby enacted:
 
1.        Every person has the right to believe according to their own religious or philosophical beliefs or convictions (hereinafter convictions), and to choose which faith, worldview, religion, or religious institution to subscribe to, affiliate with or belong to.
2.        No person may be forced to believe, what to believe or what not to believe, or to act against their convictions.
2.1         Every person has the right to change their faith, religion, convictions or religious institution, or to form a new religious community or religious institution.
2.2         Every person has the right to have their convictions reasonably accommodated.
2.3         Every person has the right on the ground of their convictions to refuse (a) to perform certain duties, or to participate or indirectly to assist in, certain activities, such as of a military or educational nature, or(b) to deliver, or to refer for, certain services, including medical or related (including pharmaceutical) services or procedures.
2.4         Every person has the right to have their convictions taken into account in receiving or withholding medical treatment.
2.5         No person may be subjected to any form of force or indoctrination that may destroy, change or compromise their religion, beliefs or worldview.
3         Every person has the right to the impartiality and protection of the state in respect of religion.
3.1         The state must create a positive and safe environment for the exercise of religious freedom, but may not promote, favour or prejudice a particular faith, religion or conviction, and may not indoctrinate anyone in respect of religion. In approving a plan for the development of land, the state must consider religious needs.
3.2         No person may be unfairly discriminated against on the ground of their faith, religion, or religious affiliation.
4         Subject to the duty of reasonable accommodation and the need to provide essential services, every person has the right to the private or public, and individual or joint, observance or exercise of their convictions, which may include but are not limited to reading and discussion of sacred texts, confession, proclamation, worship, prayer, witness, arrangements, attire, appearance, diet, customs, rituals and pilgrimages, and the observance of religious and other sacred days of rest, festivals and ceremonies.
4.1         Every person has the right to private access to sacred places and burial sites relevant to their convictions. Such access, and the preservation of such places and sites, must be regulated within the law and with due regard for property rights.
4.2         Every person has the right to associate with others, and to form, join and maintain religious and other associations, institutions and denominations, organise religious meetings and other collective activities, and establish and maintain places of religious practice, the sanctity of which shall be respected.
4.3         Every person has the right to communicate within the country and internationally with individuals and institutions, and to travel, visit, meet and enter into relationships or association with them.
4.4         Every person has the right to conduct single-faith religious observances, expression and activities in state or state-aided institutions, as long as such observances, expression and activities follow rules made by the appropriate public authorities, are conducted on an equitable basis, and attendance at them is free and voluntary.
5         Every person has the right to maintain traditions and systems of religious personal, matrimonial and family law that are consistent with the Constitution. Legislation that is consistent with the Constitution may be made to recognise marriages concluded under any tradition, or a system of religious, personal or family law, or to recognise systems of personal and family law under any tradition, or adhered to by persons professing a particular religion.
6         Every person has the right to freedom of expression in respect of religion.
6.1         Every person has the right (a) to make public statements and participate in public debate on religious grounds, (b) to produce, publish and disseminate religious publications and other religious material, and (c) to conduct scholarly research and related activities in accordance with their convictions.
6.2         Every person has the right to share their convictions with another consenting person.
6.3         Every religious institution has the right to have access to public media which access must be regulated fairly.
6.4         Every person has the right to religious dignity, which includes not to be victimised, ridiculed or slandered on the ground of their faith, religion, convictions or religious activities. No person may advocate hatred that is based on religion, and that constitutes incitement to violence or to cause physical harm.
7         Every person has the right to be educated or to educate their children, or have them educated, in accordance with their religious or philosophical convictions.
7.1          The state, including any public school, has the duty to respect this right and to inform and consult with parents on these matters. Parents may withdraw their children from school activities or programs inconsistent with their religious or philosophicalconvictions.
7.2          Every educational institution may adopt a particular religious or other ethos, as long as it is observed in an equitable, free, voluntary and non-discriminatory way, and with due regard to the rights of minorities.
7.3          Every private educational institution established on the basis of a particular religion, philosophy or faith may impart its religious or other convictions to all children enrolled in that institution, and may refuse to promote, teach or practice any religious or other conviction other than its own. Children enrolled in that institution (or their parents) who do not subscribe to the religious or other convictions practised in that institution waive their right to insist not to particpate in the religious activities of the institution.
8         Every person has the right to receive and provide religious education, training and instruction. The state may subsidise such education, training and instruction.
9         Every religious institution has the right to institutional freedom of religion.
9.1         Every religious institution has the right (a) to determine its own confessions, doctrines and ordinances, (b) to decide for itself in all matters regarding its doctrines and ordinances, and (c) in accordance with the principles of tolerance, fairness, openness and accountability to regulate its own internal affairs, including organisational structures and procedures, the ordination, conditions of service, discipline and dismissal of office-bearers and members, the appointment, conditions of employment and dismissal of employees and volunteers, and membership requirements.
9.2         Every religious institution is recognised and protected as an institution that has authority over its own affairs, and towards which the state, through its governing institutions, is responsible for just, constructive and impartial government in the interest of everybody.
9.3         The state, including the judiciary, must respect the authority of every religious institution over its own affairs, and may not regulate or prescribe matters of doctrine and ordinances.
9.4         The confidentiality of the internal affairs and communications of a religious institution must be respected. The privileged nature of any religious communication that has been made with an expectation of confidentiality must be respected insofar as the interest of justice permits.
9.5         Every religious institution issubject to the law of the land A religious institution must be able to justify any non-observance of a law resulting from the exercise of the rights in this Charter.
10      The state may allow tax, charitable and other benefits to any religious institution that qualifies as a juristic person.
11      Every person has the right, for religious purposes and in furthering their objectives, to solicit, receive, manage, allocate and spend voluntary financial and other forms of support and contributions. The confidentiality of such support and contributions must be respected.
12      Every person has the right on religious or other grounds, and in accordance with their ethos, and irrespective of whether they receive state-aid, and of whether they serve persons with different convictions, to conduct relief, upliftment, social justice, developmental, charity and welfare work in the community, establish, maintain and contribute to charity and welfare associations, and solicit, manage, distribute and spend funds for this purpose.
 

 

Christian Conference of Asia. 10/2009

Dear friends,
 
The General Committee of the Christian Conference of Asia approved the attached HIV and AIDS Policy.  There was a debate on human sexuality.  The last sentence under Human Sexuality is already an amended version from what the writeshop participants produced in Bali last August 6.
 
I hope you can help disseminate this policy on HIV and AIDS.
 
Very sincerelz yours,
 
Dr. Erlinda N. Senturias
Consultant on HIV and AIDS
Christian Conference of Asia

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Statement from Interfaith Forum to the 9th ICAAP. 09/08/09

(This conference was co-organized by AINA (Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS in Asia), Indonesian Interfaith Network on HIV/AIDS (INTERNA) and the Local Organizing Committee of ICAAP, in partnership with broad coalition of national, regional and international organizations.)

"We, 160 men and women of faith, from 20 countries, with various roles and responsibilities in religious communities and organizations from Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Shinto, met in Bali on the 7th- 9th August, 2009, to strengthen Faith-Based responses in meeting the challenges of HIV in Asia and the Pacific"

We are committed to united and coherent action among our varied faith communities to face up to HIV and AIDS in our region.

People living with HIV have reminded us during our meeting that our communities still need to know more about HIV and we are committed to delivering the necessary information and overcome indifference associated with ignorance and existing attitudes, which contribute to stigma and discrimination. We will continue to build our religious capacities to speak personally and in public about HIV without judgment and without increasing stigma.

We are committed to building on the provision of care and support and information and raising awareness in our communities. However we realize that this is not enough. It is not enough to equip people with information without making it possible for them to use the information to protect themselves and their communities. It is not enough to provide care, support and treatment for a select group of people without struggling for access to treatment for the many who are currently unsupported.

We asked ourselves:
  • How can we de-construct our cultures for the well-being of all?
  • How can we re-form our laws and public policy?
  • How can we interpret our religious teachings, which are clear about the unity of humanity and our inter-dependence and responsibility to each other so that we overcome destructive attitudes about ‘them and us’.
In response to these questions:
  • We held sustained discussions about human rights and injustice and violence related to gender throughout our meeting.
  • We discussed the devastating impact of the criminalization of drug use, and lack of quality services for male and female drug users. We will join in and advocate for the review of laws, cultures, policies and regulations that facilitate the transmission of HIV, and exclude people who are living with HIV from the workplace and from access to health care.
  • We are confident we can change ourselves. We will listen to people from all walks of life and we will read and apply our sacred texts for the empowerment of communities. We are determined that our beliefs about overcoming stigma and discrimination will be reflected in our lives as individuals and as communities of faith.

We also began a regional discussion about HIV and tourism.

The value of sharing wisdom within this international, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-religious network is clear to us. We will strive to include more people in our networking, both within our own national borders and throughout our regional context.

 

PACANet Reflection Statement - Churches and HIV and AIDS: Challenged or Changed? 01/12/08

Pan-African Christian AIDS Network (PACANet) Pre-ICASA Conference, 29 November – 1 December 2008, Dakar

1.0  Background

Out of a desire to strengthen the churches’ response to HIV and AIDS in Africa, pre-conference participants started from a point of reflection, examining a summary document of various existing church declarations of commitment. The overview clearly demonstrated that many of the declarations support an ecumenical response that is characterised by a commitment to holistic approaches.

Many declarations stated that much progress had been made in responding to HIV and AIDS by churches and church-based organisations, and identified a number of key challenges that remained, such as: addressing broader global injustices that fuel the pandemic, engaging church leadership in advocacy for just policies and government accountability, reducing stigma and discrimination, promoting the meaningful involvement of people living with AIDS (MIPA), addressing gender and age biases, mainstreaming church responses, deepening theological and ethical reflection, examining socio-cultural issues, developing a new culture of interfaith co-operation, promoting closer partnerships with other stakeholders, and strengthening the technical and management capacity of church programs. 

2.0  Outcomes

Participants reflected on the churches’ continued response to the challenge of HIV and AIDS, and felt it important to emphasize the churches’ key strengths as well as the challenges that remain, relating to both specific church interventions and cross-cutting issues.

2.1  Key Strengths In the Churches’ Response

• Theological Mandate and Spiritual Inspiration
The core principles of love, care, support and justice have engendered a compassionate response, that promotes the churches value for life and full well being. Furthermore, their messages offer a strong pillar of hope, and have the potential to help people make significant life-style changes that reduce their risk of HIV infection.
• Holistic Approach
Ecumenical responses characterise churches’ commitment to holistic approaches embracing the need for global access to prevention, care, treatment, support and social ministry.
 • Extensive Reach and Networks
Churches have extensive reach and are broadly represented and deeply rooted in local communities. Ecumenical and interfaith networking further strengthens their reach and accountability.
• Leadership and Public Credibility
Church leaders are often seen as people of integrity and credibility in their communities. Through developing the capacity of church leaders in HIV, much needed guidance is provided to build compassionate, engaging and competent church responses. 
• Experience and Capacity
Churches have traditionally defended the promotion of health for all, in particular for the poorest and most vulnerable. The same is true in meeting the needs of individuals, families and communities infected and affected by HIV since beginning of the pandemic, through skilled human resources, many volunteers, and extensive infrastructure. Church antiretroviral therapy (ART) programs demonstrate high levels of adherence, thus preventing viral resistance.
• Growing Advocacy
Churches are praised for ecumenical initiatives and advocacy work (including support of movements led by Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV), where churches exercise their role as advocates for just policies. Churches enjoy a growing number of partnerships and alliances with diverse stakeholders working on HIV advocacy issues.

 2.2  Challenges That Remain

2.2.1  HIV and AIDS interventions

Prevention
• There is a need for training and teaching to better inform messages suitable for different audiences.
• Churches need to develop practical tools on Positive Parenting that will help parents and children to establish mutual communication on issues of family life, sex and human sexuality.
• Existing emphasis is on individual morality, and often overlooks addressing underlying issues of gender inequality, poverty, social stability, etc.
• There is insufficient promotion of various Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) approaches as a tool for prevention.
• Prevention messages often focus on sexual transmission, omitting transmission by blood and vertical transmission.
• Churches need to create a safe and welcoming environment for PLHIV and sero-discordant couples.
• Churches need to engage and understand traditional cultural practices, so as to develop and deliver messages that take advantage of traditional protective practices and avoid those practices that facilitate HIV transmission;
• Churches need to engage and understand post-modernism—the predominant world-view of many people around the world—so as to develop and deliver messages that can positively impact life styles that will prevent HIV transmission.
• Many members of churches have not made life style changes consistent with current knowledge of HIV transmission.

Treatment
• There are not enough facilities or personnel qualified/accredited to provide ART, per respective government standards.
• Churches need more training in VCT in order to reinforce respect for confidentiality and promote treatment adherence.
• As a result of growing resistance to some ARVs and the challenge to deliver a wider range of ARVs, churches need more training to promote continued high-level treatment adherence.
• HBC services are provided through church institutions, but often the community is not engaged.
• Churches are often marginalized from the planning of national HIV and AIDS programs.
Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC)
• Churches do not have clear strategies to respond to the holistic long and short term needs of OVC—protection of child rights, parenting, psychosocial, economic, and spiritual support.
• Children are seldom included in identifying their needs or in designing programs to respond to their needs.

 2.2.2  Cross-cutting issues
• Lack of clarity in advocacy messages – Churches need to look both inside and outside of the congregation in order to be more actively engaged in global social responsibility on HIV and AIDS issues.
• Perpetuation of stigma and discrimination – Churches need to strengthen the message that HIV is not a “punishment from God.”  Further training is required, particularly on expanding and challenging knowledge, attitudes, and understanding of HIV and transmission.
• Inconsistent involvement of PLHIV – Churches need to advocate for their meaningful involvement, and provide a welcoming environment that offers hope and help for positive living.
• Unaddressed gender issues – There is a general ambivalence and silence regarding women’s roles in some churches, where dialogue and openness could enhance understanding.  In addition, men need to be more proactively involved in HIV and AIDS interventions.
• Some churches do not yet provide a safe environment making many girls and women vulnerable, especially young single women, divorced, and widowed.
• Limited involvement of Children and youth-centered HIV and AIDS initiatives in planning projects targeted to meet their needs. 
• Limited mainstreaming of the issue of HIV and AIDS – Churches often see HIV and AIDS as something other than an integral part of its ministry. Churches could better integrate HIV and health activities across other community and development activities in which they are involved.
• Continued internal theological politics exist between churches that result in different and often confusing messages.  There is a need to overcome conflicts and come to common understandings, while recognizing and allowing for diversity.
• Limited sensitivity to socio-cultural diversities – Many taboos and misperceptions remain.  Churches need to more deeply unpack the socio-cultural context within which they work and bring harmony between culture, science and faith.
• Zeal and passion without competence – There is often limited or poor project management oversight and a lack of commitment to monitoring and evaluation, research, and documentation of results.  Further capacity-building is required among church leaders and program workers in these critical areas.
• Limited resource mobilisation to support churches’ HIV and AIDS interventions and increase their effectiveness.
• Fragmentation and lack of coordination of church responses – Lessons learned and best practices could be more broadly shared among stakeholders, and networking strengthened.

 3.0  CONCLUSION

The churches’ spiritual mandate provides their core motivation for the delivery of a holistic response to HIV and AIDS.  Furthermore, churches’ key strengths including extensive reach, credible leadership, experience, capacity, and growing advocacy, place them in a strong position to take a lead in addressing the pandemic, at both a local and global level.As churches intensify their efforts, it is imperative that they respond to identified key challenges related to specific intervention areas, such as in Prevention, OVC, and Treatment and Care, as well as cross-cutting challenges, in particular, gender and the meaningful involvement of PLHIV, to further strengthen the impact of their response. In summary, churches have improved and/or changed their approach, teaching and practices in many areas related to HIV and AIDS.  In addressing the challenges that remain, it is essential that churches engage in deeper dialogue and collaboration in and amongst themselves, strengthen partnerships with other stakeholders, and strongly advocate for a broader compassionate, engaging and competent response.  

Call to Action on HIV. 27/11/08

The World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly adopted a Call to Action on HIV on October 29 2008. The Call to Action on HIV was drafted during the recent Micah Network consultation on Churches Living with HIV by WEA representatives attending that meeting.

CABSA discussed the Call to Action in various staff, management and board forums, and endorses the Call.  We encourage our partners and friends to read the document and find ways in which these principles can be supported.

The management committee decided that this Call will form part of CABSA’s AIDS Candlelight Memorial Sunday materials.

The Call to Action and reports can be found below:

Evangelicals Urged to Show God’s Grace to HIV Victims. 26/11/08

By Maria Mackay
Sun, Oct. 26 2008 11:46 AM EDT

PATTAYA, Thailand - When HIV sufferers turn to the evangelical church, they are looking to reconcile with God but instead find “closed doors and angry faces,” says one Christian HIV sufferer.

Gracia Violeta Ross Quiroga, a UNAIDS representative from Bolivia, was speaking at a fringe meeting of the World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly in Thailand on Saturday.

She told evangelicals there that demonstrating God’s grace and mercy were as much part of an effective evangelical response to HIV and AIDS as practical action.

Citing the biblical story of the prodigal son who receives his father’s forgiveness despite squandering his wealth, she told of how she had been received again by God and her physical father, a church elder, after discovering she had HIV.

“God was not waiting for me with a list of questions - 'Oh, why did you do this?' or 'I told you this was going to happen.' He came to me and He held me and He helped me walk all the rest of the way until I got home again. And so did my father," Quiroga said.

“That is grace," she pointed out. "Is the church doing this now? That is my question to you, because I can tell you that the experiences of most people living with HIV with the evangelical church in particular is not so like the prodigal son.

“When they try to go back home and look for God because they realize they will die soon and they go to the church, they don’t find open arms and mercy and grace. They find questions …, which I don’t think is what God wanted us to do with people with HIV.”

Quiroga urged evangelicals to demonstrate greater compassion towards those with HIV.

“If you were in the position of the person with HIV and you were trying to look for God in the church, the place where people say God is, and you find doors that are closed and faces that are angry with you, how would you react?”

She warned that a negative attitude and the church’s inability to speak about sex, drugs and other taboo issues made many HIV sufferers reluctant to turn to the church, despite their desire to reconcile with God.

“We can leave [difficult issues] to God because He will judge that anyway but I think it is our calling to practice grace when it comes to working on HIV and Aids,” she said.

Also at the meeting was Sally Smith, a civil society partnerships adviser for UNAIDS who served as a BMS medical missionary in Nepal for 16 years.

 

HIV – A Call to Action

World Evangelical Alliance

While we have not always acknowledged it, we recognise today that the Body of Christ, His Church, is living with HIV. With brokenness we admit that as Evangelical Christians we have allowed stigmatisation and discrimination to characterise our relationships with people living with HIV. We repent of these sinful attitudes and commit to ensuring that they are changed.

We will follow Jesus’ example and identify with those who are affected (Matthew 9:12-13) as we intercede fervently for one another (Romans 8:26). We recognize that as the current generation of young people in our churches enters adulthood and becomes sexually active we have not always provided a clear, biblical framework of human sexuality and life skills for their guidance and nurture. We are cognizant that we have been insensitive to the inability of women, children and the most marginalised to exercise real choices and that in many areas of the world marriage and gender-based violence are risk factors for HIV transmission. We apologise for this failure and resolve to model and teach the essential value of human sexuality within the bounds of God-honouring lifestyles. We also commit ourselves to listen with understanding to our children, youth, women, and the most marginalised – especially people living with HIV – so that we can work together for a healthy and safe future which will enable all people to live in the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10).

The HIV pandemic has reminded us that the health of all communities is connected to the health of the most vulnerable and marginalised in our societies. We commit as leaders to equip ourselves and our congregations to follow the footsteps of Jesus. Since ours is the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) we will seek to live out incarnational faith working in partnership with the most marginalised and vulnerable to HIV infection.

 As a community of Evangelical Christians we believe that all people regardless of belief, identity, gender, ethnicity or health are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Hence it is an essential element of our identity that we bear witness to the love of God for all people in word and deed, in private and in public. We therefore resolve to strengthen our theological reflection and practical action in our advocacy, respect for life and justice with dignity for all people. We realize that this resolution will profoundly challenge us as we deeply long to be a holy people who please God (1 Peter 1:15-16; Matthew 5:8). We reaffirm that we all live in and by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:1-2) and agapé love (1 Corinthians 13:1-8). 

We commit to working in HIV prevention in partnership with others to halt and reverse the spread of HIV. In so doing we understand that there are many social drivers that contribute to HIV transmission and that no one group or organisation can do everything. We will therefore work alongside other sectors of society so that all people will know how to protect themselves from infection and have access to the services needed to do so.
We commit to playing our part in caring relationships – individually and corporately – working to mitigate the impact of HIV on individuals, families and communities and advocating for comprehensive HIV services in prevention, treatment, care and support. We will work towards universal access for these services for people living with HIV so that they become less vulnerable and are enabled to be meaningful contributors within the Church and society.

We commit to develop a comprehensive HIV strategy in collaboration with our member-networks, people living with HIV and other partners.

 As a community of Evangelical Christians expressed globally, nationally and locally we will foster connections between parts of the Body of Christ. We will strive for practical solidarity and sacrificial giving among Christians – person-to-person, congregation-to-congregation, denomination-to-denomination, and country-to-country – in order that Jesus may be lifted up, the Father glorified and men and women brought into His saving grace through the life revolutionising power of the Gospel we preach (Romans 3:23-24; 6:23; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:13).

 

WEA Accepts Call to Action on HIV. 27/11/08

November 27, 2008
Contact Information:          
Marion Kim, Press Secretary. E-mail: mar...@worldevangelicals.org
Rev. Gerald Seale, HIV Task Force. Email: gase...@caribsurf.com
Micah Network's Global HIV Consultation on Churches Living With HIV held a meeting in Pattaya, Thailand October 21-24, 2008 which challenged the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) to take action on HIV.
On the consultation's final day the “HIV - Call to Action” document was affirmed by the Micah leadership and forwarded to WEA. WEA's General Assembly received and affirmed the Call to Action in an overwhelming vote on October 29, 2008. Bishop Gerry Seale, General Secretary of the Evangelical Association of the Caribbean, has agreed to lead a small task force to recommend how WEA can implement the Call to Action. Representatives from
Asia, Africa and the Americas will be joined on the task force by Rev. Patricia Sawo of ANERELA+ (the African Network of Religious Leaders Living With and Personally Affected by HIV) and Sally Smith (UNAIDS). The task force is expected to complete its recommendations by June 30, 2009.
“With the unanimous approval by the WEA 12th General Assembly of this important ‘Call to Action’ our global network of leaders has indicated their commitment to call the Church and in particular our global network to a proactive response to HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Tunnicliffe, International Director of the WEA.
“We believe it is critical for us as followers of Jesus Christ that we play our part in mitigating the impact of this pandemic. We are calling upon all Christians to join us in this important cause.”

The World Evangelical Alliance. 29/10/08

The World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly adopted a Call to Action on HIV on October 29 2008. The Call to Action on HIV was drafted during the recent Micah Network consultation on Churches Living with HIV by WEA representatives attending that meeting.

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CHAA - A Creed for the AIDS Pandemic.

CHAA (Christian HIV/AIDS Alliance) has initiated a Creed for the AIDS pandemic suitable to be read in church services for World AIDS day or any other occasion when the pandemic is remembered. We encourage churches to download the creed free, or copies are available in a glossy bookmark format from CHAA, at £20/100 copies plus Post and package.

A Creed for the AIDS pandemic

We believe that God loves the world and the proof of that love is the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross.

We believe that through the reconciling power of the Cross, God’s love seeks to embrace all people regardless of creed, colour, gender or sexual orientation and that the AIDS pandemic is not God’s judgement on sinful behaviour.

We believe that God has called the Church to be the agent of His love in this broken world.

We believe that Christ’s love compels us that we should no longer live for ourselves but for Him and that the Gospel calls us to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ and share in their sufferings and to do good to all people.

We believe that as stewards of the talents we have been given, we have a responsibility to use them to help all those affected by the AIDS pandemic.

We believe that, as Christ’s disciples, we are called to comfort the broken-hearted, help the oppressed, care for orphans and widows and minister to the sick.

Therefore, as God’s people, we covenant together to pray regularly, give generously, fight stigma, encourage one another, and share in fellowship with those affected by the pandemic.

 

Creed Calls Church to Remember AIDS - 20/11/08

The Christian HIV/AIDS Alliance have launched a “Creed for the AIDS Pandemic” designed to be read out in churches, on either Sunday nearest to World AIDS Day, December 1st. The aim is to help churches to remember the 2.1 million people who died from AIDS related illnesses last year alone, and to express support for those involved in the response to HIV and AIDS throughout the world.

CHAA member, the Salvation Army UK Territory, plan to launch the Creed in their churches for World AIDS Day 2008; Tearfund have written their own version of the Creed inspired by CHAA’s Creed; Alpha International, Holy Trinity Brompton, and St Philip and St James Church, Bath, also both plan to use the Creed. Copies of the Creed were also distributed to Anglican Diocesan World Mission Officers and Mission agencies attending the recent Anglican, “Partners in Mission World Mission” conference.

CHAA developed the Creed as a step towards their vision to see a mobilised UK Christian Community responding to the Global pandemic.

The short Creed affirms Christian belief in God’s love to reach out to those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS whilst firmly rejecting the idea of the AIDS pandemic being God’s judgement on sinful behaviour. Its emphasis is firmly on the church being an agent of change, putting the responsibility on church members to reach out as Christ’s’ disciples to comfort the broken hearted, help the oppressed, care for orphans and widows and minister to the sick. The Creed is in bookmark format, designed to be signed and dated and kept as a reminder by church members as a commitment to be involved with the worldwide pandemic.

AIDS activist, Rev Alan Bain, Vice Chair of CHAA, and Vicar of St Philip and St James Church, Bath, said, “At the World AIDS conference in Mexico City this year UN Secretary – General, Ban Ki Moon pointed out that an even greater effort is now required if the world is to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV by 2015. CHAA’s new Creed provides a reminder and an opportunity for churches to commit themselves to solidarity with the overseas church who have fought the pandemic for over 25 years, often in situations of abject poverty and deprivation.”

Chair of CHAA, Ken Pearson said, “The Creed for the AIDS pandemic is not new. It is being lived out every day by millions of Christians living with and caring for those affected by the pandemic. My prayer is that the Creed will reawaken the UK Church to our responsibility to share with them in their need.”

The Christian HIV/AIDS Alliance is a network of 19 Christian agencies and churches praying and working together to serve and empower those affected by HIV and AIDS. Copies of the “Creed for the AIDS Pandemic” are available to order or by download on the CHAA website, http://www.chaa.info/ 

A Creed for HIV

We believe that God loves the world and the proof of that love is the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross.

We believe that through the reconciling power of the Cross, God’s love seeks to embrace all people regardless of creed, colour, gender or sexual orientation and that the AIDS pandemic is not God’s judgement on sinful behaviour.

We believe that God has called the Church to be the agent of His love in this broken world.

We believe that Christ’s love compels us that we should no longer live for ourselves but for Him and that the Gospel calls us to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ and share in their sufferings and to do good to all people.

We believe that as stewards of the talents we have been given, we have a responsibility to use them to help all those affected by the AIDS pandemic.

We believe that, as Christ’s disciples, we are called to comfort the broken-hearted, help the oppressed, care for orphans and widows and minister to the sick.

Therefore, as God’s people, we covenant together to pray regularly, give generously, fight stigma, encourage one another, and share in fellowship with those affected by the pandemic. 

Contact: CHAA Press Officer, Rev Alan Bain 01225 832838

Summit of Religious Leaders Living with HIV.17/08/08

Inaugural Summit of Religious Leaders Living with HIV
XVII International AIDS Conference
Mexico City, Mexico
Statement

We, as lay and ordained religious leaders, women and men, living with and affected by HIV, assembled in Mexico City for the 2008 International AIDS Conference, make the following statement.

Faith, in all its forms, holds a powerful and central position in the lives of the majority of people in the world. Leadership in faith communities thus carries great responsibility. 

Religious leaders are uniquely positioned to bring an end to the stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV (PLHIV) which continues to damage the bodies, minds, and spirits of human beings.

Religious leaders living with and affected by HIV who are open about their status exemplify the transformative power of honesty. By bringing an end to our own self-stigmatization, we serve as agents of hope to other PLHIV and affected persons and model the possibility of ending their own self-stigma. We also show that HIV does not disqualify us from fulfilling our respective callings in the world. Since HIV is a global pandemic, we consider all religious leaders to be affected by it. 

Many injustices continue to marginalize PLHIV: criminalization; travel restrictions; immigration policies; access to medications, care, education and prevention services; and many forms of violence. We call upon all religious leaders to make full use of their trusted positions to break the silence surrounding HIV and take an active stand against these injustices as well as all forms of stigma and discrimination.

ICAAP Pre-conference Statement Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. 08/07

Pre-conference statement from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance at the 8th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific which took place August 19-23 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Representing the major religions of Asia, we were participants at the International Interfaith Pre-ICAAP Conference, organized by Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS (AINA), Christian Conference of Asia and the World Council of Churches on the theme “Response of Faith Communities to HIV and AIDS -Have We Kept the Promise?”

Having deliberated for three days on the role of faith communities in addressing HIV and AIDS, we recognize that the values of our religions compel us to respond to the human suffering caused by HIV and AIDS in our communities. These values also provide a unique and distinctive contribution to the overall response to the AIDS pandemic.

Recognising the dignity, sacredness, rights and responsibilities of individuals and communities, we are committed to work to overcome HIV in an inclusive manner, mobilising the human, spiritual, institutional and financial resources that our faith communities possess.

We dedicate ourselves to face the reality of HIV in our societies, to assess the needs in our communities and to prioritize our responses, considering our strengths and comparative advantages. We will also seek to identify and overcome our weaknesses, building on our achievements to make our communities competent in dealing with HIV and AIDS. To be accountable to the people we serve and the wider society, we will also ensure assessment of our progress and the impact we have in our own contexts.

In many ways, religious organizations have already been active in addressing all aspects of HIV and AIDS from raising awareness to providing treatment, care and support to those affected. But we know there is much more we must do, and we are committed to ensure that the tremendous social assets and competencies of our faith communities are energised to engage religious leaders, build partnerships and mobilize communities.

Engaging Leadership

We believe that religious leaders can and must play a constructive role in the response to HIV and AIDS. We are committed to educating and mobilising the leaders to advocate, educate and lead by example in their respective faith communities.
We will develop tools to train the leadership so that they can be effective public voices for raising awareness and reducing the stigma and discrimination so often associated with HIV and AIDS.

We will work to ensure that religious leaders at all levels are equipped to provide accurate, evidence-based information on preventing the spread of the virus, while at the same time focusing on the values and teachings in our faith traditions that also contribute to reducing new HIV infections.

Building Partnerships

The enormity of the challenge requires partnerships of unprecedented range and scope. We as faith communities are resolved to develop new partnerships and to strengthen existing ones with other sectors.

We are committed to work in solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS. We acknowledge that we have not done enough in this area, and have at times contributed to their sense of exclusion and stigmatization. We will work to build trust and to create inter-faith partnerships with positive networks at country, regional and local levels and encourage positive networks within our own communities. We are convinced that by working together we can defeat stigma and discrimination and create inclusive communities.

We emphasize the special role that inter-faith cooperation has played in building bridges across faiths and in helping us to address the challenges posed by HIV and AIDS more effectively. We are committed to strengthening such partnerships based on mutual respect and focussed on our shared values of human dignity, compassion, and love.
We are committed to strengthen AINA as an effective interfaith network at the regional level, so that it can advocate for the role of faith-based organizations, support national interfaith networks and help share information and coordinate our collective response to AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.

We are also committed to expand our partnerships with governments, UN agencies, NGOs, and other key actors to ensure that our faith communities have the financial, human, and material resources we need to be successful in controlling the pandemic. We are ready to work together, but we urge these sectors to respect and support the unique values and approaches that we as religious communities bring, even as we commit to respect their unique roles.

Mobilizing Communities

We believe that the response to the pandemic has to be centred in the community, and we commit to building caring, equitable communities that lead the way in supporting affected persons, encouraging openness, reducing stigma and discrimination, and addressing social inequities.

We will utilise the structures of our faith communities -- our places of worship, the educational and health facilities, our women’s and youth organizations – to provide the full range of prevention, treatment, care and support services.
We will work to incorporate HIV and AIDS information in appropriate ways into our worship rituals, our festivals, our religious education and training of future leaders.

We will also engage our faith communities in holding our governments and other international actors accountable for the commitments they have made to provide increased resources and to work towards universal access to treatment, prevention, care and support services.

In closing, we see this gathering as a starting point for closer cooperation in the future and are committed to carrying out follow up efforts in our countries and across the Asia-Pacific region.

In all these commitments, we seek guidance and support from the divine spirit that animates us and is the source of our being, so that we may play our part in “keeping our promises” to overcome HIV and AIDS and bringing healing and hope to all humanity.

 

WCC Asks for Universal Access to Treatment.06/09/06

Press Release: WCC asks for universal access to treatment, welcome for positive people.

World Council of Churches - News Release
Contact: +41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 media@wcc-coe.org
For immediate release - 06/09/2006 11:28:35 AM

HIV AND AIDS - WCC ASKS FOR UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO TREATMENT, WELCOME FOR POSITIVE PEOPLE

Every person living with HIV and AIDS should have access to the treatments made available by medical science and churches must advocate for this to happen, said the World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee in a statement adopted at a meeting that ends today. The statement also challenges churches to a greater commitment in fighting the pandemic and welcoming positive people into their communities.

"Faith-based communities have a responsibility to advocate that antiretroviral treatments as well as treatment for other opportunistic infections be made available and accessible to all" who need them, the WCC central committee statement affirms. "For the first time ever, the world possesses the means to reverse the global epidemic," it notes.

The leadership of the churches is encouraged "to exercise their role as advocates for just policies and to hold governments accountable for their promises". In particular, the statement further "calls on the G8 governments to adhere to their promises of funding and response to reach universal access to treatment, care and support by 2010".

The private sector, especially pharmaceutical companies, are requested "to invest in needed research" and "to ensure that their drugs for treating HIV are available at low prices in low- and middle-income countries".

Precious members of the community

The WCC central committee acknowledges that "while the churches have been on the front line of care and support for people affected by the pandemic, many of us have also been complicit in stigmatizing and marginalizing people living with HIV and AIDS".

It therefore encourages churches "to continue to play a critical role in overcoming the pandemic through responses that are tempered by compassion and qualified by competence". Among those, it mentions "providing comprehensive and evidence-based information on prevention of HIV transmission," as well as "ensuring access to voluntary and confidential counseling and testing".

The WCC central committee also calls on churches and Christians "to promote greater and more meaningful involvement and participation of people living with HIV and AIDS," as well as "the acceptance by the churches of persons living with HIV and AIDS". They are "precious members of the community," the statement affirms.

Ongoing reflection

The statement further recognizes that there are "aspects of the church response to HIV and AIDS about which there is continual disagreement".

Therefore, while acknowledging the "lifesaving responsibility of all to protect themselves through practising abstinence outside of marriage, fidelity in marriage and a healthy way of life including rejection of drug abuse", it also calls for "ongoing ecumenical reflection" on "the response to those who, contrary to the church witness, engage in high-risk sexual activity or drug use, including the appropriate means of prevention".

The WCC central committee urges churches to promote "deeper theological and ethical reflection on HIV and AIDS," as well as "open and inclusive discussions on issues related to sexuality, gender-based violence and intravenous drug use to empower individuals and communities to be less vulnerable to HIV".

AIDS, which causes 8000 deaths a day and has left 13 million children orphaned, "remains a serious threat to humanity". The fact that many are still "ill-informed" and thus "not equipped to prevent this eminently preventable disease" makes it "obligatory to engage in and work to overcome the viruses of ignorance, silence and fear".

The "Statement on churches' compassionate response to HIV and AIDS" is the third issued by the WCC central committee in its history. The first one was adopted in 1986 and the second in 1996.

The central committee "Statement on churches' compassionate response to HIV and AIDS" is available here

More information on the WCC Central Committee meeting is available here.

Information on WCC work on HIV/AIDS is available here.

Information on the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA) is available here:

Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 media@wcc-coe.org

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 348 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

MERROO Statement.International Christian Medical & Dental Association (ICMDA). 10/07/06

Statement from participants at the Pre-congress Conference on HIV, 9 – 11 July 2006 to the XIIIth Congress of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association 11-16th July 2006

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Reformed Ecumenical Council Statement. 07/05

Reformed Ecumenical Council Statement: Towards a Theology of Hope in a Time of AIDS. July 2005, Utrecht

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Statement for World Aids Day 2009 from All Africa Council of Churches : Universal Access and Human Rights

November 30, 2009

AACC Member Churches, National Christian Councils,

The All Africa Conference of Churches joins the international community to mark the World Aids Day which is usually commemorated on the first day of December. The theme for this year is 'Universal Access and Human Rights'. From the time in 1988 when the day was first marked so much has happened and even though, the church has not been able to ‘alter the course of the epidemic’[1], as had been optimistically expressed, it is living up to the expectation of being the salt and the light of the world in provision of love, care and compassion for the people of God who are living with or are affected by HIV and Aids in the continent. The African church under the auspices of AACC has continued to be a beacon of hope for many HIV infected and affected communities.

As we take stock of the milestones some churches have so far achieved in addressing the HIV and Aids pandemic which include, among others, breaking the silence around stigma; awareness creation; promotion and provision of health care through the church health facilities; care and support of orphans and vulnerable children and persons living with HIV among others, we acknowledge that a lot still remains to be done for the over 12 million orphans and over 24 million people living with HIV in Africa.

Africa, the Epicentre of the HIV Pandemic

As Church let us recommit ourselves, to fight the pandemic which is making new inroads in Africa. For example in several African countries, populations that were hitherto considered at low risk such as the elderly and people in marriage and stable relationships are now at great risk of infection according to research. In fact, the latest UNAIDS information paints a gloomy picture of the HIV and Aids situation in the continent by revealing that the highest number of new infections (70.4%), HIV and Aids orphans (76%), adults and children living with HIV and Aids (66.7%) and Aids related deaths (75%) occur in Africa. It is in Africa where for every two people put on Antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, five others are newly infected - a clear case of two steps forward and one step backward.

The situation in Sub-Saharan Africa sharply contrasts with the global trend in which new HIV infections and the number of persons living with HIV and Aids have declined. Likewise deaths from Aids related illnesses have reduced and the number of persons on Anti Retroviral Therapy has increased. This is now our challenge in Africa as we commemorate this year’s World Aids day.

With this in mind, the Church should not relent in its efforts to alter the course of the epidemic in Africa. In order for the church in Africa to overcome this challenge, we recommend to all our member churches, national Christian councils and institutional members of AACC to:

Mainstream HIV and Aids into all aspects of their work recognising that HIV is multi-sectored with factors including poverty, conflict, culture, and gender impacting on HIV and Aids. Therefore all church work with women, youth and children should preferably have a component on HIV and Aids in order to speed up action and effect;

Recognize gender dynamics that make women more vulnerable to sexual gender violence which fuels the spread of HIV and for the church to engage with retrogressive traditions such as female genital mutilation, early marriages in order to liberate and empower all members of the church;

Strengthen and re-invigorate response to the HIV and Aids challenge by discerning its changing epidemiological trend and reorienting church plans, policies and strategies for effective response for overcoming HIV and Aids. This requires the church to keep abreast of national HIV and Aids information/research and then marshal its resources and immense social capital to address the challenge. Towards this end the church should remain alert, proactive and work collaboratively and in partnership with state and non-state actors such as national aid control bodies, research institutions, hospitals and health departments/ministries engaged in efforts to overcome the scourge.

Advocate for the human rights for all to prevention, treatment, care and support; rights which are critical and integral for everyone regardless of their political, cultural, economic or HIV status. Church leaders should take up the challenge and advocate against harmful cultural practice and gender based violence which fuel the spread of HIV while stepping up efforts aimed at reducing vulnerability to HIV by reducing poverty, increasing food production, employment creation, etc;

Encourage, stimulate and support the growth of more centres of hope from where love, care and compassion will ceaselessly flow forth to the infected and affected including the orphans, widows in the communities. We pay tribute to the elderly and the children on whom a huge burden of looking after and heading households lies and we urge churches, which spread out in every corner of the land to bring out the challenges and the concerns of these special group of caregivers.

Acknowledge and take cognisance of the myriad of new challenges likely to compound our struggles and efforts to fighting HIV and Aids notably the adverse effects of climate change and the challenge it poses of reduced food production and the global financial crisis which may impact on health delivery systems. The HIV and Aids response activities for prevention, control and treatment might decline due to lack of adequate financial resources. Already effects are being felt in several countries in as far as access to Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) is concerned. Overall, these may aggravate the HIV and Aids situation in Africa.

Develop HIV and Aids competence at all levels and increase congregational level responses to HIV. As AACC, we will continue to accompany and to build the capacity of Churches in Africa to become HIV and Aids competent and to step up advocacy of churches as the beacon of hope, called to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour (Luke 4: 18-19).

We will appreciate information on the activities you conducted on this day.

Thank you.

Rev. Dr. Andre Karamaga

GENERAL SECRETARY
www.aacc-ceta.org Tel: 254 - 20 - 4441483, 4441338/9  Fax: 254 - 20- 4443241, 4445835  Email: secretariat@aacc-ceta.org

General Secretariat: Waiyaki Way, P.O. Box 14205, 00800 Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya


[1] What religious leaders can do about HIV/Aids (New York: 2003).

 

 

"Covenant of Life" - Asian Church Leadership Consultation. 01-04/12/03

"Covenant of life"- Statement of Commitment of the Asian Church Leadership Consultation on HIV/AIDS. December 1-4, 2003 Batam Island, Indonesia

 

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The AACC YAOUNDÉ Covenant on HIV/AIDS 27/11/03

 Preamble  

The Lord God is the creator of heaven and earth; the creator of all life forms in the earth community. He created all life and everything good. In this HIV/AIDS era, he sees the misery of his people, who are infected and affected by this disease; he has heard their cry on the account of this epidemic. He knows their sufferings and he has come down to deliver them from HIV/AIDS. So he calls to send us to the infected and affected, to bring his people, his creation, out of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Therefore, this Assembly recognises God’s call to us and makes this covenant with God today:

Covenant 1: Life and HIV/AIDS prevention

We shall remember, proclaim and act on the fact that, the Lord our God created all people and all life and created life very good (Gen 1-2). We shall, therefore, seriously and effectively undertake HIV/AIDS prevention for all people Christians and non-Christians alike, married and single, young and old, women and men, poor and rich, black and white, for all people everywhere, for this disease destroys life and it; hence, it violates God’s creation and will.

Covenant 2: Love and HIV/AIDS care

We shall remember, proclaim and act on the fact that love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Those who say ‘I love God,’ and hate their sisters and brothers are liars, for unless you love your sisters and brothers whom you see, you cannot love God whom you have never seen (1 John 4:7-21). We shall, therefore, do all that is necessary and within our power to encourage both men and women to love, care, support and heal all those who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in our communities, countries and continent.

Covenant 3: Treatment and HIV/AIDS drugs

We shall remember, proclaim and act on the fact that the earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord and that he has given it over to all human beings for custodianship (Ps 24:1; Gen 1:29). We shall, therefore, openly and persistently undertake prophetic and advocacy role for all the infected who are denied access to affordable HIV/AIDS drugs until anti-retroviral drugs are available to all who need them.

Covenant 4: Compassion, HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination

We shall remember, proclaim and act on the fact that the Lord our God is a compassionate God, who calls upon us to be compassionate, to suffer with those who suffer, to enter their places and hearts of pain and to seek lasting change of their suffering (Luke 6:36; Matt 25:31-46). We shall, therefore, have zero tolerance for HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination and do all that is necessary to eliminate the isolation, rejection, fear and oppression of the infected and affected in our communities. We shall declare HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination an unacceptable sin before God and all believers and in all our communities.

Covenant 5: Poverty and HIV/AIDS

We shall remember, proclaim and act on the fact that the Lord our God, who created all the resources of the earth, blessed both women and men and gave them these resources for their sustenance (Gen1:28-29). We shall, therefore, work to empower all the poor and denounce all the cultural, national and international structures, laws and policies that have condemned billions to poverty thus denying them their God-given rights and, in the HIV/AIDS era, exposing them to infection and denying them quality care and treatment.

Covenant 6: Gender inequalities and HIV/AIDS

We shall remember, proclaim and act on the fact that the Lord our God, created humankind in his image. In his image, he created them male and female, he blessed them both and gave both of them leadership and resources in the earth; he made them one in Christ (Gen 1:27 -29; Gal 3:28-29). We shall, therefore, denounce gender inequalities that lead boys and men to risky behaviour, domination and violence that deny girls and women leadership, decision-making powers and property ownership thus exposing them to violence, witchcraft accusation, widow dispossession and survival sex, fuelling HIV/AIDS infection and lack of quality care and treatment.

Covenant 7: Children and HIV/AIDS

We shall remember, proclaim and act on the fact that Lord our God welcomes children. He has given his kingdom to them and he is the father of all orphans (Mark 9:33-37; 10:13-16; Ps 68:5; Ps 146:9). We shall, therefore, work to empower and protect all children and denounce all the national and international structures, cultures, policies, laws and practices that expose children to sexual abuse and exploitation, HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination, dispossession and poverty, thus exposing them to HIV/AIDS infection and lack of quality care.

Covenant 8: Church, PLWAs and HIV/AIDS

We shall remember, proclaim and act on the fact that we are one body of Christ and if one member suffers, we all suffer together with it; that the Lord our God identifies with the suffering and marginalised and heals the sick (1 Cor 14:26; Matt. 25:31-46). We shall, therefore, become a community of compassion and healing, a safe place for all PLWAs to live openly and productively with their status.

Covenant 9: Human Sexuality and HIV/AIDS

We shall remember, proclaim and act on the fact that the Lord our God created human sexuality and created it good (Gen 2:18-25). We shall, therefore, test for infection, denounce sexual violence, abstain before marriage, be faithful in marriage and practise protected sex to avoid HIV/AIDS infection and plunder on life, for all life is sacred and prevention should be seriously pursued to protect life.

Covenant 10: Justice and HIV/AIDS

We shall remember, proclaim and act on the fact that the Lord our God sees, hears, knows the suffering of people and comes down to liberate them (Exod 3:1-12; Luke 4:16-22). We shall, therefore, declare the jubilee and we shall proclaim liberty throughout the land and to all its inhabitants (Lev 25:10), for unless and until justice is served to all people in the world, until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, HIV/AIDS cannot be uprooted.

Adopted at the AACC 8th General Assembly in Yaoundé, Cameroon 22-27 November 2003

SACC Statement. 03/10/02

SACC STATEMENT on HIV/AIDS 2002

"We have heard the cry of our those affected: Let us respond with compassion."

The National Executive Committee of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), meeting at Bonaero Park, wishes to declare that it has heard the cry of those affected and infected with HIV/AIDS. We therefore appeal to all stakeholders to redouble our resolve to seek bold and effective ways of combating the pandemic.

Our churches regularly encounter the stigmatisation, fear, deprivation, and despair experienced by many people living with HIV/AIDS. Through our ministries in local communities, we are witnessing an alarming increase in the number of deaths due to AIDS. We see families who lack the necessary resources to bury their dead with dignity, orphaned children left with neither parental guidance nor financial support, elderly people trying to feed and care for their grandchildren on meagre pensions, and communities and extended families rejecting the sick and orphaned.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has clearly reached crisis proportions. We believe that both public and private bodies must redouble their efforts to address the needs of those infected and affected by this disease.

We have been encouraged by several developments this year. We applaud the courage of persons living with HIV/AIDS who openly declare their status in the face of negative attitudes in our communities. To them we send out a message of hope and support, plead for forgiveness on behalf of those who respond in a judgemental way to their status.

We applaud the Treatment Action Campaign’s efforts to compel both government and pharmaceutical manufacturers to step up their efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. We reiterate the call for free access to treatment and availability of drugs at affordable prices.

We salute the efforts of those provincial governments that have begun to roll out mother-to-child transmission prevention programmes in public health facilities. We hope that these initiatives will provide further evidence of the efficacy of such programmes and will encourage other provinces to act expeditiously to introduce corresponding measures.

We encourage Cabinet for its new policy of partnership with all sectors, including organizations that work with HIV/AIDS persons and PWA’s themselves.

As a nation, we share a collective responsibility to care for and embrace our brothers and sisters who are living with HIV/AIDS.

We therefore call on:

Churches to be Christlike in their responses to those infected and affected by the virus; to explore practical ways to demonstrate God’s love and compassion through programmes of care, testing and counseling; and to address the issue of stigmatisation as a matter of urgency.

Government to accelerate the provision of appropriate medications to prevent mother-to-child transmission, to give survivors of rape and sexual abuse access to post-exposure prophylaxis, and to improve the quality of life of those living with HIV.

The international community and pharmaceutical manufacturers to take steps to make vital medications available to both the public and private sectors at affordable rates. The provision of these drugs can no longer be seen as simply a business issue; it must be recognised as a moral issue, a global crisis in which all humanity has an obligation to act as they are able.

Employers to make provision of drugs to their employees who are infected as a standard practice and benefit.

As a nation, we have proven that we have what it take to make us Proudly South African. We urge that all of us should have the moral courage to respond to the HIV/AIDS challenge in a manner that can make us a winning nation once again.

Adopted by the
National Executive Committee
South African Council of Churches

Bonaero Park
3 October 2002

 

Christian Conference of Asia Consultation on AIDS: A Challenge for Religious Response 2001

We, the participants of the CCA Consultation on HIV/AIDS: A Challenge for Religious Response" held in Chiang Mai Thailand from November 25-30 2001, having heard, discussed and deliberated on reports about the prevention, care and treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS from 14 countries in the Asia Pacific region, celebrate with joy:

  • The solidarity, strength and support extended by the world community, especially the community based organizations, religious institutions, non government organizations and faith based organizations in addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis that threatens to be the mostdevastating disease of the twenty first century
  • The encouraging signs of new drugs in the medical field that mitigate suffering and extend the life span of people living with HIV/AIDS
  • The great strides made in the field of health care, hospitals, children’s homes and awareness education by the increasing number of organizations both secular and religious, committed to this cause
  • The indomitable spirit, courage, wisdom, foresight and timely action taken by some countries like Thailand to combat HIV/AIDS

Yet in spite of all these encouraging signs, we are appalled at the statistics that remain staggering.

An affirmation of faith

 God created all and cares for everyone. The God we strive to follow is one who hears the cries of suffering people and inspires us to work for a better world.

 Jesus the great and beloved physician, the good shepherd, the rock and the refuge, calls us to be the good and compassionate neighbor, the loyal and faithful friends who lowered their sick friend from the roof of the house.

 Churches and faith-based organizations are challenged to follow in the footsteps of the Lord 
  • who stood with people who were marginalized, discriminated against and stigmatized, - who healed not only physical ailments but understood and healed the deep scars and
  • wounds inflicted by society
  • who wept and empathized with human suffering

The Asian situation

More than 15 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in Asia. HIV/AIDS cuts across geographical boundaries, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicities and age groups. Though it has devastating influences in both rich and poor nations, it has spread more rapidly in poor and developing countries, further aggravating the economic conditions and its social consequences. The more affluent Asian countries like Australia, Japan and Taiwan have the capacity to limit the progress of HIV/AIDS infection due to availability and affordability of anti retroviral treatment and better comprehensive health care and support.

 The epidemiological pattern of HIV varies in countries and within countries. Governments fear to recognize, accept and admit the existence of AIDS as they believe it would be detrimental to tourism and foreign investments. But countries like Thailand that have dared to openly admit the existence of AIDS have succeeded in reducing the numbers affected as anticipated in the projections made by UNAIDS.

 Emerging issues and challenges

 

We view with concern the following emerging issues and challenges arising out of this ongoing crisis: 
  • Despite the encouraging developments PLWHA still face significant discrimination and stigmatization and are denied the opportunity to fully participate in their communities. This stigma also extends to and affects other members of the families of PLWHA and can be especially traumatic for children.
  • Many social, cultural practices and beliefs contribute to the escalation of HIV and are barriers to conveying effective HIV prevention messages. These practices also inhibit open and honest discussion of human sexuality, both in the church and in society
  • Women and children are placed at great risk of HIV because they have the least power to negotiate safe sex. Due to cultural and biological factors women and children are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and HIV infection. In some countries, widows of HIV positive husbands are denied the right to inheritance leading to economic exploitation.
  • HIV positive children born to HIV positive parents may die within ten years. Children who are HIV negative continue to hear the stigma and are forced into situations or practices where they are exposed to HIV such as injecting drugs or sex work, because of rejection by peers and society, lack of love and hope, thus continuing the vicious cycle.
  • The impact on families where parents have died or can no longer care for children and elderly people is enormous. Elderly people in turn have to care for their grandchildren when they themselves may be frail and in need of care. The loss of people who are in the productive age group of 19-44 has a huge social and economic impact.
  • Market dynamics due to the World Trade Organization Treaty and other financial instruments like patent rights and intellectual property rights have inflated the cost of treatment and drugs, putting these new drugs out of the reach of the majority of PLWHA who come from developing countries.
  • Developing countries that are burdened with debt repayments find it difficult to allocate sufficient funds to the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

A call to action

 

HIV/AIDS is an ongoing crisis that requires a sustained and sustainable response at multi-sectoral and multi-faith levels.

 

Therefore the church is called to be a healing community and to be a model of compassion and love for all.

 

The church at all levels, international, regional, national and local, has an important role to play in:
  • challenging the negative, judgmental attitudes that still exist towards people with HIV/AIDS
  • decreasing fear and misconceptions about of HIV/AIDS
  • providing accurate information about HIV/AIDS, including prevention information, and information about HIV services that may assist PLWHA
  • encouraging equal participation of PLWHA in planning and delivering HIV/AIDS programs and services
  • providing practical and pastoral support for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families, especially to women and children
  • advocating for appropriate legislation and policies, that address the needs and rights of PLWHA, which include access to treatment and medicine and respect for the human rights of PLWHA
  • engaging in prayerful dialogue and networking with other churches, faith communities and secular organizations in order to encourage each other in the ongoing struggle to meet the challenge of HIV/AIDS
We call on the Governments of Asia:
  • To affirm the human rights and dignity of all people, including those living with HIV/AIDS, especially women and children
  • To legislate against discrimination and stigmatization by ensuring the basic rights of people with HIV/AIDS and their families to adequate health care, education and employment
  • To allocate adequate resources and provide programs that serve to decrease the incidence and impact of HIV/AIDS in the region

Conclusion

 

This then is the time
  • to heal,
  • to care, not only by providing services, but also by standing alongside with love
  • to build a community of belonging and acceptance
  • to transform prejudice into compassion, healing and understanding
  • to live with hope and die with dignity

African Churches Speak! Feedback from Grassroots Christian HIV/AIDS Programs to the 2001 Declaration of Commitment.

Keeping the Promise? African Churches Speak! PACANet provided feedback from Grassroots Christian HIV/AIDS Programs to the 2001 Declaration of Commitment.

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The Impact of HIV/AIDS and the Churches Response. 1996

A statement adopted by the WCC central committee on the basis of the WCC consultative group on AIDS study process, September 1996.

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Congregational Declaration

 

Faith Communities Urge G8/G20 to Jointly Address Food Security and HIV

1 in 6 people still go hungry

This letter addressed to the Prime minister of Canda beseeches that he delivers on the 2009 pledge, known as the L’Aquila Food Security initiativeii, to invest more in smallholder farmers and in sustainable production to reduce poverty and hunger. This is action that is vitally needed in a world that produces enough food to feed itself but where 1 in 6 people still go hungry, 129 million children are underweight and 195 million children are stunted by hunger and malnutrition.

Read the whole letter attached below

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HIV Policies of Faith Communities and Organisations

 

Call to Action on HIV & AIDS. 20/9/11

World Methodist Council praises ministry of African churches

General board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church
20 September 2011

Durban, South Africa — The World Methodist Council, an association of 77 churches in the Methodist tradition in 135 countries, unanimously passed a resolution that affirms “the way in which many churches in sub-Saharan Africa have responded positively to the HIV & AIDS pandemic through awareness-raising, education, prevention, testing, treatment and care.” The resolution was passed during the World Methodist Conference here, Aug. 4-8.

“We acknowledge the world-wide nature of the pandemic and give thanks for pioneering work and hope offered to the rest of the world by the ministry of the African churches,” the resolution states.

The resolution was prepared by Donald Messer, chairperson of the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee, and Christine Elliott Hall of the British Methodist Church, with the help of South African Bishop Ivan Abrahams, newly elected general secretary for the World Methodist Council.

Durban is "the epicenter of the epidemic in South Africa," according to Messer. "It was imperative that world Methodism break its silence and speak to the suffering of the people who were hosting us," he said.

30 million deaths

Attendees at the conference acknowledged that the HIV & AIDS pandemic has been 30 years in existence and caused the death of nearly 30 million. Through the resolution, the gathering committed itself to using its global relationships to develop cooperative initiatives and encourage its congregations:

- To spend at least 30 minutes discussing HIV & AIDS and identifying partners for action;

- To encourage people to undertake testing;

- To speak out against stigma and discrimination; and

- To annually observe World AIDS Day, which is Dec. 1.

This council further charges the General Secretary to set up an HIV & AIDS working group to enable member churches to take part in a concerted and continuing partnership for the healing of the nations,” the resolution states.

African appendix

African delegates to the World Methodist Conference added an appendix to the initial resolution that states:

We acknowledge the impact of HIV & AIDS globally. As we met on African soil, we remembered the devastating effects of HIV & AIDS and the heroic efforts of African families, communities and nations to respond to the epidemic. Jesus Christ, the Healer of the Nations, calls upon us to redouble our efforts in responding to HIV & AIDS.

As the World Methodist family,

We reaffirm our commitment to the overall response to HIV & AIDS.

We repent that we have allowed fatigue and complacency to weaken our response to HIV & AIDS.

We enjoin our members and theological institutions to be actively involved in addressing the epidemic.

We express deep concern about the diminishing commitment to the struggle against HIV & AIDS.

We challenge pharmaceutical companies to prioritize the lives of people living with HIV over profits.

We undertake to confront factors that increase vulnerability to HIV, including gender inequality, sexual and gender-based violence, stigma and discrimination, economic injustice and simplistic theologies.

We hereby commit to promote holistic prevention of HIV and to collaborate ecumenically to respond to the challenge.

We will continue to pray, plan and implement strategies to address HIV and AIDS as part of our mission. As we struggle against injustices that fuel the spread of HIV, we remain fully convinced that through Jesus Christ, the Healer of the Nations, we shall overcome.

Messer, from Centennial, Colo., represented the UM Global AIDS Fund Committee at the World Methodist Conference along with Oliver Green of Topeka, Kan. Green is a member of the board of directors of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society.

Free Pentecostal Fellowship Church in Kenya HIV/AIDS Policy.

The Free Pentecostal Fellowship church in Kenya (FPFK) HIV/AIDS POLICY

1.0 Background

HIV/AIDS is a global threat and fourth biggest killer in the world.

UNAIDS estimates show that 40 million people are living with HIV by end of 2004 in the world, 25.4 million being from Africa. Most affected being ages 15- 24 years, young women being the majority. Africa therefore is the most affected continent in the world.

In Kenya, the first case was diagnosed in 1984, in 1999; HIV/AIDS was declared national disaster by the government of Kenya. Since then, the prevalence has ranged from 14% in 2000 to 6.7% in 2003 and about 1.25 million people were estimated to be living with the virus.( MOH 2005)

1.1 Main Modes of Transmission
The modes of transmissions are:
Unprotected Sex with an infected person
  • Transfusion of Infected blood,
  • Piercing and contaminated objects and
  • Mother to child transmission.

1.2 Policy Objectives

1. To provide guidelines to FPFK leadership and members on how to respond to HIV/AIDS within the organization and the community.

2. To demonstrate the love of Christ by proactively involving the church in HIV/AIDS epidemic through a standard framework to ensure uniformity and consistency (Matt 22:39)

1.3 FPFK Mission

To preach the word of God to all nations in preparation for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ by reaching out and establishing churches which can meet the spiritual, economic and social needs of the people through evangelism, education, training and socio-economic activities based on Christian values ( Matt 28:18-19)

1.4 Policy Development: The Process

This policy was developed through a consultative process involving staff and church representatives from all regions and structures (leaders, parents and youth) in accordance with the church constitution.

MAP International provided technical support in collaboration with FPFK National Office. The full list of participants is attached at the end.

1.5 HIV/AIDS And Implications On The Church and Society

FPFK recognizes that HIV/AIDS is a threat to humanity and shall therefore endeavor to respond with compassion and love to the infected and affected members of the church and society.

Policy Statement

(a) Prevention
FPFK recognizes that HIV/AIDS is preventable and with the help of God Almighty the church shall endeavour to mainstream HIV/AIDS in all structures:
  • FPFK shall use its structures to empower members on basic information regarding HIV/AIDS. Such information shall be provided with sensitivity to age, culture and biblical values.
  • Sunday Schools, youth programmes, seminars ,National conferences and FPFK supported institutions provides ideal environment for HIV/AIDS education ( proverbs 22:6)
  • Parents are encouraged to seek HIV/AIDS information and to proactively discuss with their children with openness, respect and love (Proverbs 22:6).
  • FPFK recognizes that the body is the temple of God. Therefore since sex and the mind are linked, FPFK, respects individual right to dressing , but also encourages members to dress modestly at all times , as dressing communicates individual and society values(‘Be conscious and sensitive to the environment) :(1 Timothy 2:9, 1cor 6:13-20)
  • In line with the Bible, FPFK encourages abstinence for the unmarried and fidelity for the married (Hebrews 13:4, 1cor 7:1-6).
  • - FPFK, recognizes the role of VCT in HIV/AIDS prevention and shall strive to:-
    • Educate members on the importance of VCT 
    • Encourage members to know their serostatus (Titus 2:6)
    • Network with Government and other agencies to enable members benefit from existing services ( Rom13:1-6)
    • VCT remains an individual choice and ethical issues regarding confidentiality shall be upheld.
    • Disclosure of serostatus remains an individual choice and responsibility (Joshua 24:14)Pre and post support groups are encouraged at congregational levels for providing support (a shoulder to lean on) ( Galatians 6:2, Romans 12:15)
  • In complementing the Government efforts on HIV/AIDS prevention FPFK shall strive to:-
    • Educate members on the basic facts regarding the condom and its use.
    • Educate the members on Biblical values of sex and sexuality (Hebrews 13:4-5) 
    • Educate members to make informed choices realizing that the body of a believer is a temple of God, therefore sex outside marriage is a violation of God’s law( Icor 3:16-17, Icor 6:19-20) 
    • Encourage discordant couples to seek Christian counselling and appropriate medical advice and make efforts in minimizing infections and re-infections.
    • Train church leaders in basic HIV/AIDS guiding and Counselling / coping skills to their respective groups
  • FPFK, constitution provides guidelines for solemnizing of marriage. Therefore, in light of HIV/AIDS challenge, the church shall endeavour to:-
    • i) Church clergy shall be empowered to guide the couple on understanding the implications of HIV+ and HIV-.
    • ii) Incorporate basic HIV/AIDS information within the pre-marital , guiding and counselling programme
    • iii) Encourage the couple to go for HIV testing and share results between themselves, parents and clergy. Where necessary the couple and clergy may postpone solemnization to allow further consultation.
    • iv) HIV status (either positive or negative) will not be a deterrence of solemnization of marriage, so long as the above steps have been followed and the couple involved consented in writing.
  • Re-marriage in the event of death is allowed by the Bible and FPFK constitution, thus couples shall be encouraged to know their serostatus and follow steps above before solemnization
  • In the event of long separations, the couples are encouraged to know their serostatus before reunion

Materials and illustrations used in HIV/AIDS education in the church must meet professional standards; appreciate ethical issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and PLWHAs, Biblically and culturally appropriate.

(b) Care & Support

Caring and supporting the sick is a core mandate for children of God (Luke 10:33-37, Acts 9:36). Realizing the magnitude and challenges facing PLWHAs, FPFK shall:-

  • Encourage churches to form support and welfare groups
  • Strengthen outreach and home visitation for the sick and hurting 
  • Strengthen counseling and pastoral programme 
  • Encourage members to mobilize resources and reach-out to the sick and lonely 
  • Equip members with basic skills for home based care and proactively get involved in outreach activities 
  • Strengthen/form networks and collaborations with the Government, other agencies involved in care and support programmes
  • FPFK leadership will Endeavour to educate or develop networks to enable its members acquire skills in paralegal and memory book writing , as a way of encouraging members to protect their properties in the event of death
  • FPFK shall strive to do all it can, within the available resources to initiate support and empowerment for PLWHAs.
  • Stigma is a challenge in the fight against HIV/AIDS. FPFK shall do all it can to sensitize its members and advocate against stigma and discrimination among her members and society (Galatians 6:15).

(c) Mitigation

  • FPFK shall encourage her members to foster the children of relatives and members who have passed on (James 1:27, Isaiah 58:7 )
  • Where possible, resources may be mobilized to support the orphaned children, widows and widowers. But this will be at the discretion of the local churches
  • FPFK shall network with the Government and other development agencies to enable her members in this category to benefit from on going programmes.

(d) Cross Cutting Issues

  • 1. HIV/AIDS infected members and staff of FPFK have full rights of membership and participation in all church related activities for example administering and receiving of Holy Communion ( Rom8:1-2).
  • 2. FPFK members, who die of AIDS related illness shall be accorded proper burial rites like any other member (no discrimination) Gal 6:15, Ephesians 2:13
  • 3. FPFK shall educate and encourage her members to legalize their marriages to avoid wrangles and conflicts in the event of death
  • 4.
  • 5. FPFK, does not require a pre-employment HIV testing certificate for new staff
  • 6. FPFK recognizes the emerging challenges of orphans, widows, widowers and the poor in her midst. The church will not discriminate these groups or label them, but shall:
    • a. Sensitize members to respond to their needs I Timothy 5:3-5. James 1:27
    • b. Avoid labeling of these groups, but use acceptable names that encourage healing and inspire hope
    • c. Mobilize resources and support them initiate IGAs
    • d. Integrate them within church groups.
  • 7. FPFK as an employer, shall endeavor to protect the rights of the infected and affected members of staff
  • 8. Termination of employment from FPFK, will not be based on HIV serostatus, so long as the staff is able to perform assigned duties
  • 9. FPFK realizes that some AIDS related illness may eventually cause physical and mental limitations on ability to perform normal duties. In such situations, termination from employment will be as for any other illnesses and disabilities according to the employment contract. (However, FPFK will strive to do its best in the interest of the staff)
  • 10. In event of a medical scheme for FPFK staff, health plans and cover will be according to the policy of the facility offering the insurance cover
  • 11. FPFK will link its staff to Government health facilities in event of accidental exposure to HIV/pre-post exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
  • 12. Anti-Retroviral drugs have shown to prolong the life of PLWHAs. FPFK commits to:
    • i. Provide ARV – literacy to the members
    • ii. Encourage local churches and institutions to develop referrals and networks with health facilities
    • iii. Providing information on ARVs providers to enable HIV+ FPFK members and staff to benefit.

Developing HIV/AIDS Policies for Christian Ministries.

Jerry Thacker, M.A.

BJUPress

In 1984 my wife, Sue, gave birth to our third child, whom we named Sarah. Because of complications during the delivery, Sue had the child by caesarean section and required four units of transfused blood. In 1986 we found out that one of the units of blood was contaminated with HIV. Sue passed on HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) to me and through breastfeeding gave it to Sarah. We've been living with and studying HIV now for the last ten years. Those in ministry need to understand HIV/AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is now a behavioral disease. Very few people are getting it from the blood supply. Most people get it by doing a risk activity. Although a few children born to HIV-infected mothers have it at birth (2 or 3 out of 10), most babies born to infected women do not have it unless they are breastfed.

AIDS is caused by a rather wimpy virus called HIV--the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV attacks the system that's supposed to be the front line of bodily defense and destroys that system over a long period. Without a strong immune system a person can fall prey to opportunistic infections which can kill. In reality, someone with AIDS, the end stage of HIV infection, coming to a church or Christian school is less of a danger to the non-infected than the non-infected is to the person with HIV.

The real problem with HIV infection is in the fact that it takes a long time before any symptoms develop. You won't see anything at all that lets you know an attendee or student is infected. The majority of people who have the disease don't even know that they have it. Those in ministry need to talk about policies and procedures and standard precautions.

Learn a New Behavior

In the age of "don't ask, don't test, and don't tell," we're having to learn a new behavior in our society. Everyone must consider any exchange of body fluids suspect. Your staff needs to know what to do about body fluid spills and to have the appropriate gloves and cleanup materials at hand. The medical community recently recommended Universal Precautions to the Standard Precautions listed here.

In January 1996 the CDC published revised isolation/precaution recommendations. The current system of universal precautions and category specific isolation will be replaced by Standard Precautions (for all individuals) and Transmission-Based Precautions (for specific patients).

Standard Precautions

Applies to

  1. Blood
  2. Body Fluids, Secretions, Excretions (fluid from abdomen, joints, lungs, saliva, feces, urine)
  3. Skin with opened areas (cuts, chapped hands, acne, dermatitis)
  4. Mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, mouth

Definition: Any individual's blood, body fluids, secretions, excretions, open skin, or mucous membranes should be treated as if infectious. Appropriate personal equipment should be selected based upon the task being performed in combination with standard precautions.

Developing an Infectious Diseases Policy

First of all, I'm going to tell you that you should not develop an AIDS policy statement. You should develop an Infectious Diseases Policy. There are other things that can happen in your church besides AIDS that can give you problems. For example, one of the major viruses, Hepatitis B, can be transmitted much more easily than HIV. You should also keep in mind that your policy could be looked at by a third party outside your church, such as a government agency. AIDS started with a stigma and has since acquired civil rights. An AIDS-only policy could be construed as discriminatory.

Five Points in Policy Development

Point 1: Your Infections Disease Policy should show that your ministry seeks to be inclusive, instead of exclusive. I was at a Christian school in the middle of Pennsylvania not too long ago. The school draws its school base from forty different churches. This school had a policy. I said, "Do you have an AIDS policy?" They said, "Yes, we developed it in 1987." I said, "Fine, can I see it?" Knowing the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission had declared AIDS a disease covered by the Americans With Disability Act and that you couldn't discriminate against having someone in your school with this disease, I knew exactly what I would see when I saw the policy. The policy was very simple. It said, "If you have this disease, you can't come to school here." That was it. That particular policy would now be considered illegal and would give the school all kinds of problems if someone with HIV wanted admission and they didn't let him or her in. Any written policy should begin with a statement indicating that the goal is to include HIV positive or asymptomatic AIDS people in the ministry programs and not to exclude them.

Point 2: Balance caution with compassion. Yes, this disease is deadly, but for the most part, the kind of contact that's going to take place in a ministry setting is not going to transmit it.

Point 3: Make sure your policy is medically correct. There is a great deal of misinformation about this disease. If you understand the medical facts of this disease, it will help dispel fear. What I recommend is that you have an education program in your school to educate your people. The best way to handle HIV is to educate about it before the first case comes in the door. If you don't, you can have some serious problems. Your policy needs to be medically correct. It can also have a section which is AIDS specific and specific for smaller children. You can have a different set of policies for the nursery and very young children.

Point 4: Your implementation of a policy must be a combination of an educational effort and awareness campaign. Start now and say, "Six months from now we want to have a policy in place to deal with infectious diseases, and we want to have our people educated." Then take the steps necessary to make it happen. You want to have a whole educational campaign around infectious diseases that culminates in a policy, procedures, and training.

Point 5: Include a component of abstinence training. Abstinence from sexual activity except in marriage is the only safe practice. Faithfulness in marriage is right. It is also smart.

Scepter Institute has created the AIDS & Your Church Manual to help you develop a policy and the procedures that make sense. This 144-page book includes policy statements and procedures from dozens of ministries that have already gone through the process. Overhead masters for teaching young people about HIV infection are also included. In addition, we have a number of videos to teach your young people, including "Everything You Wanted to Know About HIV/AIDS but Were Too Afraid to Ask,"" the Thacker testimony video, "When AIDS Comes Home," and others. We have also created a "Covenant of Chastity" program which includes a monograph, pledge cards, and lapel pins for your teens. Call 1-800-588-7744 for information and a free sample.

Reprinted from Balance, a publication of the School of Education, Bob Jones University. Used with permission of Bob Jones University. Please write BJU Press, for permission to reproduce this article.

 

HIV in the Classroom: What Would a Good Catholic Do? Bioethicist Helps Students Wrestle With Theology and HIV 22/02/2013

February 21, 2013

No, we're not all HIV positive. But we all potentially have the risk of becoming HIV positive. And theologian and bioethicist Robert Doyle recognizes this fact; and he's teaching a graduate course that examines HIV not as a moral issue in itself, but as a major global epidemic with moral questions embedded in the ways communities respond. He's also the author of a paper entitled "We Are All HIV Positive: A Catholic Social Teaching Response to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic."

While many in the HIV community have a mixed-to-negative past with the Catholic Church as an institution, Doyle is invested in showing the positive points Catholic theology can bring to a conversation around treating those living with HIV. In his course, "Theological Ethics and HIV," Professor Doyle asks his students to articulate the reach and scope of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, identify current political and religious responses to the epidemic, and wrestle with the epidemic's moral implications for faith communities.

Professor Doyle is a visiting assistant professor and the graduate program director at the Bioethics Institute at Loyola Marymount University. He sat down with TheBody.com to discuss teaching HIV in a classroom setting, what theology and ethics can bring to a discussion of HIV and health care, and how an "us vs. them" mentality is fueling the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

How did HIV become a part of your academic life? Did you have any previous experience as an HIV advocProfessor Robert Doyleate?

The interest began when I took a class as a graduate student earning a master's degree in theology. I took a class in HIV/AIDS, probably five or six years ago. It was fascinating to study it from an academic standpoint. I was asked about three or four months ago if there was any class I'd like to introduce, and I thought that it would be really interesting to teach a class like that on my own.

I don't have any personal experience with HIV/AIDS. But as a theologian, I found that religions have various approaches to the epidemic, and I was fascinated with the responses -- some being more positive than others. I thought, by offering a course based in theological ethics, it would give me and students an opportunity to examine just what these positions are, why some of these positions are positive, why some of the positions are negative, and begin to analyze and to unpack some of the theological responses to HIV/AIDS.

I looked at it from a Catholic position, particularly because that tradition has a body of teachings that are more organized than other traditions. It was easy to see the various responses within that particular tradition. So that's where I'm coming from, particularly in a course like this.

At the very beginning of your paper, which is titled, "We Are All HIV Positive: A Catholic Social Teaching Response to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic," you talk about the "us/them" mentality that's driving the epidemic. What do you think inspires the "us/them" mentality in people? Do you think it's just a natural human response?

The interesting thing about HIV/AIDS is that somewhere in our thinking, there is still a sense that this is just a disease associated with gay men and intravenous drug users. For whatever reason, there's this idea that morality is attached to it. You get this disease for doing an "evil act." Because of that, I think it paints a different picture than other diseases. When you talk about someone with cancer, it's not "us vs. them." Because we somehow still attach this sense of morality to HIV/AIDS, it's "Oh, you must've done something wrong, and that's why you have this disease and I don't." There's still that separation there, and that's the focal point of that paper, is trying to debunk some of those myths by examining women, African Americans, impoverished people in this country. It's recognizing that it's not just an issue of morality, or just an issue of gay men and intravenous drug users.

Some people I know call what you were just talking about the "dignified diseases." That there's a sense of dignity attached to certain diseases, especially certain types of cancer. Even within cancers, there's a kind of hierarchy, like breast cancer is very dignified, but if you smoke and get lung cancer, it's less dignified, people would say, "Why were you smoking?"

Yes, and I think that's exactly what creates the "us vs. them" mentality.

What are some of the course objectives for this class? What do you hope students will absorb? What are some potential real-world applications of this information for students who are bioethicists?

I have a few goals. One, I think, is to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS crisis. To really see how it's impacted people in this country. Not just the typical groups that we were just talking about. But that it's far reaching. And it's unlike any epidemic that we have ever seen in this country. It is not confined to a particular gender or a particular race, or a particular socioeconomic group. It really encompasses all of those. The first thing is to raise awareness that it's not just something we can throw money at, or throw drugs at, and realize that it's an epidemic that has consequences among all different types of groups.

The other thing that I want to explore in the course is the diverse responses to the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS, so that we begin to see, as I mentioned at the start of the interview, how some groups within the Catholic Church have responded positively and reached out to those with HIV/AIDS, and why other groups have responded differently, let's say. Also, I want students to be able to analyze critically what's been presented. Why have groups responded in different ways? Why has there been an "us/them" mentality? Why is it that various groups and socioeconomic classes don't receive as much support? They can begin to see that this is a unique epidemic that requires extraordinary responses.

The four principles of Catholic social teaching are extremely important to your paper, and to being a Catholic today. One of them is "solidarity." In what part of your class will you address the history of activism, especially ACT UP and Treatment Action Group, which were about solidarity during the darkest times of the epidemic?

We're certainly going to explore those. I have a couple of weeks built into the course where we look at the gay community's response to HIV/AIDS, but I think that's just a small part of activism, particularly today. By and large, the gay community has done a good job of handling the HIV/AIDS epidemic, raising awareness, promoting health within the community, promoting testing. I think it's other communities that haven't done as great a job.

Part of what I'm talking about in terms of solidarity is not looking at one particular group, but looking at all these groups where HIV/AIDS has had an impact and exploring how those communities have engaged, or perhaps not engaged with the epidemic.

"The underlying principle there is this idea of human dignity. If we recognize that if someone else is suffering then we have this duty to respond to them in solidarity."

You talk about how the four principles of Catholic social teaching must work together to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The four principles are: "dignity of the human person"; "preferential option for the poor"; "responding to structural sin"; and "solidarity." Can you talk about how they're all interconnected, for someone who may not know?

The underlying principle there is this idea of human dignity. If we recognize that, by our very nature, all of us have human dignity, then the other principles fall into place. If we recognize that if someone else is suffering then we have this duty to respond to them in solidarity.

A disease like HIV/AIDS hits poor people hardest, so standing in solidarity -- recognizing the human dignity of people living in poverty with HIV/AIDS -- we certainly should have a preferential option for them. When we talk about the distribution of health care resources, for instance, whether it's pharmaceutical drugs or access to testing, we need to make sure that communities that are poor receive these resources. I think, in that sense, they're all connected, starting with the idea of human dignity.

Your paper talks about poverty, and the ways poverty puts a person at risk for HIV transmission. And then, you have the "preferential option for the poor," which is the idea that the poor are God's people, and those people to whom we must respond. Do you feel as if there's a "preferential option" for HIV-positive people packed in there somewhere?

I think, just given the nature of how HIV/AIDS has affected impoverished people in this country, we can make the case that there ought to be preferential options for the poor with HIV/AIDS, because it is a disease that, without proper treatment and access to drugs, is deadly. Those groups that don't have access to those lifesaving treatments are the ones we should certainly pay attention to.

What do you think theologians can bring to the HIV/AIDS conversation that isn't' there right now?

This notion of solidarity is really something that theologians, many of us in the Catholic tradition, talk about quite frequently. It breaks down this "us vs. them" mentality. I think that's one of the principles we can bring to the conversation.

We can also bring the notion of breaking down stereotypes, breaking down barriers, breaking down misconceptions of teachings so that we understand that there are really no teachings that say, "We ought not to treat people with HIV/AIDS." That's in line with solidarity, but it's a separate piece.

A theology class on HIV is not something that people often think of. Religion is so important to so many people, but then there are some people who are not on board with organized religion.

Offering a class like this is extremely important, because it allows us to have discussions that students may not otherwise have in relation to HIV/AIDS, from a theological standpoint. As I mentioned, oftentimes there are instances where religions have been used to harm people with HIV/AIDS -- not physically, but perhaps by not reaching out to them the best they could. I think a class like this can highlight what the teachings actually say.

One of the things I do love about theology is that it's applicable in a lot of different situations. You talk in your paper about distribution of resources; in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Economic Justice for All, they talk a lot about redistribution of resources. In this instance, it applies to pharmaceutical companies, or even just the way we manage health in this country. How do you think, generally, theology can respond to health care issues?

"When those who are least off are taken care of, we all benefit -- a notion that I think is quite foreign to us in this country."

I think theology offers the principles that we've talked about, but there's another principle called "the common good," which recognizes that we all ought to be making contributions to the good of everyone. Sometimes, that may mean that some of us have to give up a little bit or pay a little bit extra, to help those that may not have access to some of those drugs. So, by distributing drugs to those who are poor, I think it actually contributes to this overall notion of the common good. When those who are least off are taken care of, we all benefit -- a notion that I think is quite foreign to us in this country.

You start your paper off with a lot of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: There are 300 million people in the U.S., and about 1.2 million of them are living with HIV, so it's about 1 in every 222 people. If you break it down, that 222 people can pay for one person's medication; it won't be a huge burden on everyone.

I think principles like "the common good," or "solidarity," recognize that decisions such as access to drugs ought not to just be economic. We have a duty, based on our human dignity, to provide those drugs to those in need.

Can you explain "structural sin"? This notion is part of the health care conversation, but it's not a term you hear every day.

"Structural sin" is the idea that the structures we have in place take care of those who already have access to those systems. An example of structural sin is that there's nothing within our health care system right now that provides for those who have the least access. This structure we have, just by the way it works, ignores those who need access to care the most. Particularly with HIV/AIDS, it's definitely worth examining how we can change those structures to provide for those who need drugs or access to care and allow them to flourish.

Can you talk about "human flourishing," and what you think are the structures in place that stop human flourishing?

"This structure we have, just by the way it works, ignores those who need access to care the most."

It's connected to that idea of the common good. We "flourish" -- and there are a lot of definitions of the word flourish here, but you can imagine what it means to flourish as a human -- when we have those things that allow us to best achieve our capabilities. Health is one of those. When we are healthy, we flourish. And the notion of the common good helps with that flourishing.

In line with solidarity, we are moving closer to this idea of taking care of one another. It ties into the idea of structural sin. When there's a structural sin in that someone cannot afford drugs, then they can't flourish, because they're not healthy. They're all sort of tied in together in that notion. The "common good" is that umbrella term that creates the system where we can all flourish.

As we wind down this interview, is there anything that you'd like to say, or you'd like our readers to know?

The interesting thing, and one of your questions alluded to this, is that theology and religions can actually have a positive role to play in breaking down some of the barriers that still exist in relation to HIV/AIDS, and by having conversations like this -- not just jumping to the conclusion that religion and theology should be excluded from the conversation about HIV, but actually inviting theologians to the table to have conversations about HIV/AIDS -- can actually be beneficial.

This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.

Mathew Rodriguez is the editorial project manager for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Pastor's HIV Test Shines Light 07/03/2013

Pastor's HIV Test: March 5, 2013

Pastor Steve Jerbi of All Peoples Church (center) and youth director Elijah Furquan (left) take an HIV test at church Sunday to show members how easy it is to know your status. Ronnie Grace (right) does HIV testing for the agency Diverse and Resilient.

Ciera McKissick/ Acceptance Journal Coordinator with Diverse and Resilient

Pastor Steve Jerbi of All Peoples Church (center) and youth director Elijah Furquan (left) take an HIV test at church Sunday to show members how easy it is to know your status. Ronnie Grace (right) does HIV testing for the agency Diverse and Resilient.

So Jerbi had a choice. He could continue to preach that sex is reserved for marriage and ignore the uptick of HIV-positive statistics or do something proactive to shine a light on the HIV and health care crisis in Milwaukee.

Jerbi not only chose the latter; he took a controversial but eye-opening approach by taking an HIV test - along with his youth director - in church before his congregation on Sunday. By the time his sermon on "acceptance" was over, the entire congregation knew the men's results: negative.

Jerbi and his youth director, Elijah Furquan, not only showed how easy it was to get tested; they also showed a congregation of 200 how powerful it is for a person to know his or her status. Churches in the areas hardest hit by HIV can't address the concerns of a community by ignoring a disease with epidemic numbers.

Talking about HIV is not easy. It's actually downright uncomfortable. It's one thing for a pastor to talk about topics such as gun violence and homelessness; it's quite another to talk about HIV.

Most pastors teach that sex should be reserved for marriage.

Guess what? Most people don't wait, and if the only message people are hearing from churches is abstinence and sex within marriage, then the churches are failing to deal with the realities facing our community.

"We must talk about prevention and protection as well and encourage testing," Jerbi said.

Testing is painless, and knowing one's status not only can prolong a person's life; it also can save lives by people knowing their status and taking the necessary steps to protect others.

Furquan, 20, said besides diabetes and gun violence, HIV is one of the leading killers among African-American men.

When Jerbi asked Furquan - who has been a member of the church for 13 years - if he would take the HIV test in church with him on Sunday, Furquan said he jumped at the opportunity because he knew that by taking the test publicly, it would encourage others to think about getting tested.

"I figure I could get someone else to do it to and possibly save a life," Furquan said.

All Peoples Church, at 2600 N. 2nd St., is about 70% black, 10% Hispanic and 10% white. The church is a mix of young and old, and for more than a decade the church has been accepting of those from the LGBT community.

Jerbi, 35, who is white, said many of his members come from areas directly affected by the HIV crisis. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that four in 10 black, gay and bisexual men in Milwaukee are HIV-positive. Most of these men are poor and lack adequate access to health care.

There are many reasons for the spread of HIV in the black community. Black gay men and bisexual men have a smaller dating pool, and the stigma associated with being black and gay forces some men to go "underground" for sex.

Furquan said some young people's families even throw them out of the house or treat them so badly when they come out as gay or bisexual that they contemplate suicide.

Brenda Coley, a spokeswoman at Diverse and Resilient, a local agency with several HIV prevention programs, said Jerbi's HIV test shows how far the church has come but said there is still a ways to go.

Churches don't want to talk about HIV/AIDS because talking about it opens the door to doing something about it, and that's when things get hard.

And, yes, a lot of it comes down to personal responsibility. But when a family turns its back on a child because he or she is gay and kicks the child out on the street, what options does the young person have besides couch surfing or turning dates for a safe place to sleep?

Curbing the spread of HIV will take a great effort. The faith community and faith leaders need to be at the table and willing to help. Some African-American ministers are beginning to recognize the urgent need to take action on the HIV epidemic in the black community, but change has still been slow.

We are more than 30 years into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and black Americans continue to be the ones most infected at alarming rates.

Jerbi knows that 100% of the church members were not behind his public HIV test, but he said he would feel he wasn't doing his job as a servant of God if he continued to ignore the obvious.

God wants us to be safe, and you can't do that by being silent, he said.

James E. Causey is a Journal Sentinel editorial writer, columnist and blogger. Email jcausey@jrn.com. Twitter: jecausey

Christians Protect "The Least of These" Through Advocacy . 12/2012

CCIH Connector December 2012

 “In every community there are hundreds of people who cannot speak for themselves,” says Bishop Zebedee Masereka of the Bishop Masereka Christian Foundation. “In my own community in Kasese, western Uganda, there are vulnerable children, women, elderly persons, physically handicapped people, and many stigmatized men and women whose lives are extremely hard. Who stands in the gap and speaks on their behalf? It is the people of faith who provide a voice for the vulnerable members of the community. Christ himself encourages and mandates his followers to do things for those who are not able to support themselves, as stated in Matthew 25:40.”

 Global health consultant and CCIH member Anne Wilson agrees, saying, “For Christians, the Bible includes many exhortations to love neighbor as self, to feed the hungry, care for the poor and bring comfort to those who need it. Advocacy is one of the ways in which Christians can ensure the voices of those often unheard will be heard."

 CCIH's Board of Directors made the decision to add advocacy to its mission and to undertake a conscience effort to speak out on important causes in global health. While CCIH speaks out on a number of issues, such as HIV/AIDS and general support for foreign assistance funding. CCIH has made a concerted effort to advocate for improved maternal and child health through support of family planning programs to help families achieve healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies. 

 Jeff Jordan, senior vice president of programs for Catholic Medical Mission Board, explains why he thinks faith has an important place in the public square. "Faith matters in all aspects of our lives," said Jordan. "Jesus' command in Matthew 22:21, 'Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's,' is often used to discuss separation of Church and state, but we know as Christians that we are part of Christ's coming kingdom on earth and are called to prepare and be prepared. Advocating for issues of importance to our faith and calling is paramount to a faithful engagement in the world around us."  

 Jordan recommends using many forms of communication for advocacy. “Cards, letters, emails, twitter – mobilize all forms of communication when reaching out to your legislators,” he says. “Personal connections are even better. Find people of faith who represent other sectors as well – business, academia, trade – who are willing to join their voices to yours. And try to effectively match the qualitative with the quantitative, pairing faces of those affected by an issue with solid data means that you are making heart and head arguments together.”

 Faith in Action: CCIH Advocacy Day 2012

 "In June 2012," said Bishop Masereka, (pictured above to the far left on CCIH's Advocacy Day)  "I had a rare privilege of spending a whole day on the famous Capitol Hill in Washington, DC participating in what was called Advocacy Day. The challenge that kept coming to my mind as we interacted with the big and the small on Capitol Hill was whether the sophisticated lot of the world do still remember the distanced low class masses of the world! I kept wondering whether our advocacy as people of faith was effective enough to shake even the toughest mountains, and cross the deepest valleys to reach the most vulnerable people. My reflections and challenges seem to be ongoing." 

 It is true that evidence of the results of advocacy is rarely immediate, and positive change often takes years of sharing messages with policymakers. “It is wise to continue to reflect on the reasons we engage in advocacy,” said Wilson. “Education is essential as well as an appreciation that changes may take time.”

Proof of the Power of Advocacy

 How do we know advocacy works and that our time sending letters, calling or visiting a Congressional staffer or someone in the executive branch, and tweeting messages supporting our cause will have an impact?

 According to Wilson, the successful advocacy by many groups, including the faith-based community, to ensure human and financial resources were allocated toward programs to help people affected by HIV/AIDS is evidence of the power of advocacy. "This was especially important in addressing the deep stigma associated with HIV/AIDS," said Wilson. "PEPFAR funding was influenced deeply through a broad array of advocacy activities."

 Jeff Jordan adds, "It is well known that a combination of President Bush's personal faith and earnest advocacy on the part of faith leaders played prominently in the challenge to Congress that led to the tremendous expansion of programs addressing HIV and AIDS in the PEPFAR program."

 Ethics, Economics and Keeping an Open Heart

 Legislators must answer to constituents on how public funds are spent, and this is especially apparent in economic downturns, requiring advocates to address economic along with ethical arguments. “While moral, ethical and social justice arguments should stand on their own merit when arguing for health and well-being, it is helpful to bolster your efforts with economic and effective resource utilization underpinnings that help decision-makers who may not share your moral or faith imperatives see the return on investment for what you advocate.” 

 Anne Wilson recommends that Christians should anticipate encountering legislators or staff in the executive branch of government who hold different beliefs and it is important to try to understand where they are coming from and the pressures they are under: “The more we can appreciate the ‘other’ the more likely it is that we will be able to identify some common ground on which to begin a meaningful dialogue.” 

 Learn More: CCIH Advocacy Resources 

 Advocacy is important and it is effective. CCIH has a number of advocacy resources on our web site

 General Advocacy Resources 

 Visit the Advocacy Resources section of the web site to find resources on advocating for a number of global health issues. 

 Media Relations and Social Media for Advocacy Training 

 In October 2012, CCIH held a webinar on conducting advocacy through social media and media relations. The webinar is available on the CCIH web site for viewing, as well as the powerpoint presentations by Patricia Brooks of MatchMap Media and David Olson of Olson Global Communications. | Access the webinar and presentations  

 Faith-Inspired Advocacy for Global Health, Presentation by Adam Russell Taylor at the CCIH 2012 Annual Conference

 Adam Russell Taylor, Vice President of Advocacy for World Vision discussed why Christians are called to engage in advocacy at this year's annual conference and principles for faithful political involvement. | View PowerPoint Presentation | Videos: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

 Family Planning Advocacy Resources

 View resources to support family planning

The Importance of HIV/AIDS Education to a Pastor and Ministry in the Church. 12/11/2012

Donald E. Messer on the Facebook page of the Center for Church and Global AIDS. Reprinted with permission

I wrote the following with deep sadness to my friends in Rwanda as I had hoped to join them in their HIV Workshop for pastors and spouses.

I have written a number of books on the global AIDS crisis. With over 34 million people infected in the world, this disease has been called “an unprecedented human catastrophe,” by the United Nations.

The Sin of Stigma
What makes the disease worse is that many people, including Christians, stigmatize and discriminate against people living with HIV and AIDS. The great sin of our time is the stigma and discrimination that religious people demonstrate toward persons living with HIV and AIDS.
Re-read the Gospel story of how Jesus related to sick people. He was constantly encountering sick people, ill with many diseases. Probably some of them were sexually-transmitted infections. We don’t know.
But what we do know is that Jesus never stigmatized persons. He showed love and care to every person he met and needed his love and healing. He told his disciples that they were to cure every sickness and heal every illness. No exceptions. No excuses. Reading the Gospel of Matthew, for example, is a thrilling experience when you realize that Jesus lived as he taught—a man of mercy who revealed a God of Compassion. Truly the Savior of the world!
While I trust that you as pastors and spouses learn many things at this seminar, my greatest hope is that you will make a deep commitment to be loving, accepting, caring, non-stigmatizing persons. People living with HIV feel enough pain from the disease, from their own internal disappointment and sometimes shame, and from the mean remarks of friends, family, and others, including those who claim to be Christian. They need from us a warm heart and a helping hand.
If we are to be good pastors—Shepherds of God’s sheep—we will not participate in the sin of stigmatizing and discriminating, but be a channel of God’s love and forgiveness—the miracle of the Christian Gospel. This is what means to be a Christian.

The Sin of Gossip
Christian pastors and spouses also must resist the sin of gossip. Persons living with HIV and AIDS suffer from not only their illness but also by the way people often speak of them. The pastor and spouse should be persons who always speak kindly of persons and should never engage in talking negatively about people and spreading stories and rumors. This is contrary to the Gospel of love articulated by Jesus Christ.
It would be wonderful if all the United Methodist pastors and spouses would voluntarily be tested for HIV. This should not happen, however, unless confidentially is guaranteed and counseling provided for all persons who may be infected. Also if the church is unwilling to accept having an HIV positive pastor or spouse, then persons will fear being tested. A pastor or spouse who is HIV positive can still be a marvelous pastor or spouse—and use their illness as a way of helping others know of God’s forgiveness and care.
Testing is very important because if a person is infected, they hopefully can start treatment that will prolong their lives and they can continue to provide for their families. Around the world people are promoting “treatment as prevention,” since research shows that people who are on anti-retroviral drugs have a 96% chance of not spreading the infection to their sexual partner. What is far more dangerous is when people are not tested and do not know their status and thus may be spreading the disease without knowing it.
As Christians, we follow Jesus who said he came to bring life abundant for all people. So we as pastors and spouses want always to be life givers and to promote methods that protect and preserve life, not destroy or damage it.

Loving Your People
The call of God to be a pastor is one of the greatest gifts one can experience in life. As a pastor, we are given an opportunity to be with many people, some more loveable than others, but all a part of God’s great diverse family.
We are not called to judge others, but to serve and to love others. We are given an opportunity to reach out to the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, the old and the young, the sinner and the sinned-against. Christian pastors are called to be lovers of life and to work in every way to educate persons about HIV, to promote prevention in every way possible, and to provide care and healing wherever possible.
As leaders in your church and community, I hope by being involved in this workshop you will be able to return home with more knowledge and deeper understanding. I trust your spirit of compassion and care will be deepened.
Reach out to others working in the field of HIV and AIDS—government and non-government workers. They will be thrilled to know that United Methodists truly care and want to be partners in bringing awareness, education, prevention, care and treatment. Become involved and invite others to help you educate members of your church.
Think of your congregation today. Pray that not one single young person or adult in your congregation gets infected because you and your church failed to provide education, prevention, and care information. Speak from the pulpit about the disease. Organize women’s groups. Educate the young people. Don’t be embarrassed to talk about human sexuality and condoms. You are in the life-giving and life-saving business. If you find yourself tongue-tied, invite a local doctor or nurse, or medical assistant, or social worker, or somebody who can provide accurate information in a loving fashion. God calls you to action today!
God Be With You
It is with deep regret that I was unable to join you, but my fervent prayer is that God will be with you now and in the future. Do not hesitate to contact me about any questions or concerns. My e-mail is globalaids@gmail.com I will be praying for you.

 

Health and Healing – Has the Church Got Anything to Offer? 21/10/12

Presentation by Dr Kerrigan McCarthy at ‘Johannesburg Health Day’ held at St Thomas Anglican Church on 21st October.

Jesus, in his own words, came to heal the sick! Strange, isn’t it therefore, that in some ways the church has given health and healing a bad name! We can all share stories of people who have been misled by faith healers, pastors and other persons promoting healing. We are all a little sceptical about ‘crusades’ and ‘healing missions’ that we see advertised in papers and posters and billboards. Some of us can even tell of friends or people we know who have had a bad experience related to religious healing. Perhaps some of us ourselves have even had these bad experiences!

So where does this leave us? Can we dismiss the contribution of the church regarding healing to merely these skewed and disappointing experiences?  I don’t think so – I personally believe the church (church universal) has a profound contribution to make with regard to healing.

I think the starting point is our understanding of ‘disease and curing’, and ‘illness and healing’. I am trained as a doctor – in the field of infectious diseases. I was taught at medical school about disease – that is the presence of some abnormality (pathology) in the body. I was taught about curing – that is the removing of this abnormality in the body. So, take the case of tuberculosis, for example. The disease is the presence of this germ, MTB – the cure is taking medicine for 6 months to remove it. That’s it. Simple. The same could be said for hypertension or diabetes – the disease can be cured, removed or controlled by medicine.

But what is ‘illness’? A helpful example is HIV infection. A person gets HIV infection often years before they become ill. A person says they are ‘ill’ when sh/e realises that something is different about themselves, or they cannot do what they could do before, both mentally, or physically. Another helpful example is found in the photo-exhibition there (the ‘Vision and Voices’ photo exhibition) – the picture of the two guys in wheelchairs on the soccer field. They can’t walk – they could be described as ill – with a chronic illness – a long term illness called paralysis. Illness is often socially constructed – that is – as societies, we have conditions, symptoms or experiences that are understood to mean that a person is ill. A stupid example of this - considering our friends in wheelchairs - is that if no one had legs, they would not be considered ‘disabled’. A good example of this could be a societies understanding of aging. In some communities, when a person gets to be 60, and starts to experience memory loss and dementia, that’s considered ‘normal’ and the family would not think to look for care. Or the experience of ‘uthwasa’ – the illness signifying the call to become an iSangoma, often accompanied by the hearing of voices, would be normal in some communities, but in others quite alarming.

So, if we understand illness like this, what then is healing? Let’s go back to those two folk in the wheelchair. If we look closely at their experience of illness, perhaps we could get a glimpse of what healing could mean for them. Physiologically they can’t walk, but the photographer points out that this has far more serious consequences for them than we can imagine. They are isolated socially. They can’t get around, they can’t do what they used to do, or what their friends can do. I don’t know the truth about them, but I imagine, too, that not only did they lose their independence, but at some level they lost their hopes for their future. And they lost their present understanding of themselves as competent functional people. They lost trust in their bodies. They’ve come to see themselves as different, possibly even abnormal. I’m sure that causes grief.  And it’s humiliating to be different. And just trying to be the same causes stress – imagine trying to enter through a door which is perhaps just not wide enough while on the wheelchair. The last thing you’d want is to draw attention to yourself. But someone will notice and ask to help, and once again – you’re identified as being abnormal. And what about going to the toilet? And then, speaking of these personal matters  - what about sex? Are these areas now all taboo, a no go and lost forever because one is now paralysed?  I wonder if these two could ever hope for healing?

So while ‘curing and disease’ refer to a simple, one-dimensional view of taking away a disease, and leaving a person ‘disease free’, ‘illness and healing’ refer to a far broader understanding of what it means to be ill, and what it means to be healed. Curing and disease look upon the person as a ‘vehicle of pathology’ while illness and healing looks at a person as a whole being, - an intelligent, emotional, physical creature, who is sustained in a reciprocal way through the web of relationships that surround him/her. In other words, healing is a ‘whole person’ phenomenon. So, when we are encouraged to ask ‘does the church have anything to offer with regard to health and healing’, which would we rather go for – the removal of disease, or a move towards a more integrated, wholeness of person? Some churches would have us believe that ‘removal of disease’ is what constitutes healing – and would hold evidence of this as ‘god cured me of AIDS – look, I’m now HIV negative’ or ‘I was paralysed and now I can walk again’. When viewed in this one dimensional way of a removal of disease, healing is inadequate, and evidence is sorely lacking, and we are right to be sceptical. While none of us would have the courage to say ‘God cannot take away AIDS’ or make people walk again, all of us would hope for a far more inclusive model of healing, if we were afflicted.

The question is ‘does the church have anything to offer with regard to health and healing’?  I believe so, and in two ways. The first is through encounter with Jesus. This is perhaps the biggest and most profound thing we have to offer. God can heal illness and cure disease. And this I will talk more about tomorrow during our usual Sunday services. And through encounter with Jesus, the second thing the church has to offer becomes present, and that is itself – the gift of loving community.

We can illustrate this through going back to our two friends in their wheel chairs. Let us imagine that through their illness – they come into contact with loving, caring church community. When Thabo’s friends go off to play soccer, instead of leaving him to watch Isidingo repeated for the 5th time, they take him along. They make him be the ref and blow the whistle. They drink beer together afterwards. When he needs to pee they turn away. They tease him about his girlfriends. They get him pap from the shop, they share meals. They go with him to hospital. When they discover that he can’t get a disability grant because he doesn’t have an ID, they help him get one. They discover first-hand what it’s like to be ‘disabled’ – how access to the simplest things is impaired, and things like catching a taxi are just about impossible. They become ‘advocates’ for the disabled in their homes, families and places of work. At church, Thabo hears that God loves him, and that every hair on his head is counted. He is taught to understand that despite the mystery of suffering, that God is present with him in a close way. He even gets to encourage another young person in the same situation. What happens to Thabo’s sense of isolation, and his sense of self, and his dreams that were lost? They get better, they heal, they become whole. His confusion and despair about is condition is slowly replaced with a sense of purpose about his existence, and his misfortune. Sure, Thabo still can’t walk – but he’s a whole person – Thabo. That’s who he is. Of course, this sense of community doesn’t just arrive on its own – it springs out of encounter with Jesus – that opens our eyes to understanding that at some level, we are all wounded, and so we have courage to face the woundedness of others, like Thabo, rather than just ignoring it.

With that simple illustration, I want to share 5 ways that church can be instrumental in bringing about healing. As I mention them, you’ll recognise that they were all present in the story about Thabo. I’ve tried to keep them around the letter ‘s’ so that you can remember them.

•    Restoration from Stress. Where life is stressful, the church can provide a place of restoration. Restoration can take many forms – through providing meaning, spiritual nourishment, social interaction, constructive and uplifting human interactions, opportunity for creativity and self-expression and enjoyment. All of these are possible through the community life of the church. Stress that is well managed prevents the development of illness.

•    Space for expression of emotions. The church can provide a place for the expression of emotions that are otherwise not given space for expression. Stifled emotions, such as guilt, grief, or shame can lead to physical symptoms and the release of these can often bring about healing. Often during healing services, there is space for the bringing forward or arousing of these emotions, either in quiet stillness – as at St Thomas, or through exuberant prayer, dancing and singing. Both are a healthy way of dealing with these strong and powerful feelings that may otherwise overwhelm a person.

•    Responding to social deprivation. When people are socially deprived – like we have seen and heard today, the church is able to address this by giving materially where it is able (and this is something we are all commanded to do). But the church is also able to respond to social deprivation in other ways. Good examples of this are the Mother’s union, or the African Independent churches, where the dress code can provide esteem and status, not otherwise found in their community

•    A haven of structure. Where society is unstable – for example by crime, or by racial instability (like with the xenophobia), or political uncertainty, the church is able to provide a haven of structure, an organisation in which people can find space to re-organise their own inner worlds, to find self-respect, a sense of power and well-being. In this way, the church can help people adapt to new or changing circumstances. In turn, the church then becomes a community that itself helps to stabilise society.

•    Meaning in suffering. The church can provide a framework of meaning that is able to incorporate the experience of illness. In this way, the church can provide hope for those who would otherwise despair, and heal the community by giving members a sense of corporate responsibility. Often this framework of meaning includes the Biblical narratives of God becoming human in the person of Jesus, and entering our suffering. These narratives are powerfully present in the symbols of the church – the Eucharist meal, the bread and wine.

•    Standing against injustice. Collectively, when the church realises the misfortune, injustice and evils perpetuated against others, we can stand against injustice.  

 

The Story of Patriarchy and HIV/AIDS: 2 Samuel 11:1-15. 24/7/12

As people of faith, we need stories, both ancient and new, to help us navigate our response to social issues such as HIV and AIDS.

Huffington Post

By Melissa Browning
24 July 2012

This week, more than 20,000 people are meeting in our nation's capital for the 2012 International AIDS Conference. Activists, doctors, people living with HIV and AIDS, development workers, theologians, social scientists and all kinds of folks are currently attending this event.

In the 31 years since the discovery of HIV and AIDS, nearly 30 million people have died from the virus with 34 million people currently living with the disease. The epidemic is at its worst in sub-Saharan Africa, and women are affected the most. In fact, 59% of people living with HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are women.

Statistics like these are mind-numbing. Though necessary, they can nearly cripple our response as they point to the inefficacy of our actions. This is why, when I teach or write on HIV and AIDS, I prefer to tell stories. And as people of faith, we need stories, both ancient and new, to help us navigate our response to social issues such as HIV and AIDS. 

Grace’s Story

Grace, whose name has been changed to protect her from stigma, is a woman who lives in the Lake Victoria basin of Tanzania. At fourteen years old, she ran away from home with a man visiting her village because her parents could no longer pay her school fees. Grace and her husband had two children together.  Although she married young, she valued her marriage. But once her husband got money, he took another wife without her consent. Her husband and his second wife were married in a Christian church. Even though polygamous marriage is illegal for Christians in Tanzania, Grace said churches rarely check to see if the partners are already married.

Grace didn’t know what to do. She tried to live in this new polygamous relationship, but it became too much. After her husband took a third wife, she ran away to Nairobi, where she found a job as a maid. After she left, her children did not do well without her. Her oldest son was especially distraught. She managed to pay his school fees for his first two years of secondary school, but by his third year her situation had changed. She could no longer afford the school fees, and the father refused to help as long as the boy’s mother was no longer acting as his wife.

In her job as a maid, Grace was constantly harassed sexually by the owner of the house. She refused to sleep with him for nearly a year, but then he offered to pay her son’s school fees in exchange for sex. She still said no, but after hearing her son had been crying for two weeks, she finally gave in. She knew her poverty made it impossible to care for all her children, but she said, “Let me fight for just this one.”

The only weapon Grace had for the fight was her body. As a result, she contracted HIV by giving into her boss’ demands. This was how she protected her family. Grace’s son has now grown up and graduated from college. He is smart, dedicated, and cares deeply for his mother. He also has no idea that his mother contracted HIV while trying to secure his future.

Bathsheba’s Story

While Grace’s story shocks and angers us, the story is parallel to Ecclesiastes 1:9 “there is nothing new under the sun”. The story of a woman being forced into a situation where she uses her body as a tool for survival is a story as old as time.

This is Bathsheba’s story as well. She was bathing on the roof when King David, who should have been at battle, saw her and sent for her. 2 Samuel doesn’t tell us much about the encounter, only that he sent, she came, and he slept with her. Missing from the biblical record is Bathsheba’s voice. The only words we hear from her mouth is her message to David: “I’m pregnant.”

What we do know is that in this time period, women had very few choices about their bodies.  When a king sends for you, you come. We remember other stories, like the story of Tamar, who was raped by David’s favorite son, Amnon, and we remember how David did nothing in response (2 Sam. 13).

Patriarchy’s Story

Though separated by thousands of years, we find a common thread in Grace and Bathsheba’s stories. Both women were at the mercy of the men in their lives, forced in to situations where their bodies became their currency for survival.

In doing fieldwork in Tanzania on Christian marriage and HIV/AIDS, the women in my study told me that they could not refuse sex with their husbands: if they did, they would be “beaten first and raped later.” I wonder if Bathsheba would have told a similar story about her encounter with David. I wonder if she submitted because she feared for her husband’s life. The text following this passage shows us clearly that David controlled Uriah’s fate (2 Sam. 11:6-27).

Like the story of David and Bathsheba, death and love are too often linked in the stories of women living with HIV and AIDS in Africa. If we want to see this pandemic end, then women must be given space to have power and control over their own lives. One way to do this is for Christian churches to advocate for women’s rights around the world. This global pandemic reminds us that its time for some stories – like the story of patriarchy – to come to an end.

Blind Faith: The Impact Religion can have on HIV. 17/5/12

Religious faith and HIV continue to have a challenging relationship

The Independant

By Winnie Ssanyu Sseruma
17 May 2012

When people face a traumatic event or experience in life they often seek solace in something they believe in; something that will offer potential solutions and fill the emotional and spiritual vacuum when everything else has failed. As you’d expect, many people living with HIV seek solace in their religious faith, and for some that becomes their whole life’s focus. However, religious faith and HIV continue to have a challenging relationship, to say the very least.

At the beginning of the HIV epidemic back in the Eighties, some faith leaders preached that only ‘sinners’ contracted the virus, advising that the only solution for those living with HIV was to pray hard for forgiveness. While many faith leaders have since realised that HIV is simply a virus that can affect anyone, unfortunately some haven’t. In fact, a few have gone even further, telling those in their congregations who are living with HIV to stop taking their antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) and instead concentrate on praying because that’s the only way they will experience emotional and physical healing.

Whether praying to be healed from HIV is being preached in select churches, or some church-goers living with HIV are misinterpreting what their faith leaders are telling them, a number of HIV positive people have died as a result of stopping their HIV medication. What remains unclear is how many people are being converted to this way of thinking. Is this a big problem warranting a global intervention, or are we making a mountain out of a molehill? I personally don’t know the definitive answers to these questions, but what I can say is that where prayer and HIV healing are concerned, I have witnessed and have heard of some pretty bizarre behaviour among people living with HIV, particularly within African communities in the UK and in some parts of Africa.

ARV treatments save lives and many of us who are taking them now would not even be here today to tell the tale if we didn’t have access to them. We now have scientific evidence from recent trials to confirm that these drugs not only save lives but can also act as an effective barrier to HIV transmission. This is by no means new information for those living with HIV and or working in the HIV sector, but having sound evidence to back our experiences up is always a bonus.

Despite such compelling evidence, there are always some who, for one reason or another, continue to reject anti-HIV medication. I have had conversations with people who have told me that they’d originally tested HIV positive but miraculously no longer carry the virus as a result of prayer and rejection of ARV treatment. I have also heard of HIV positive people who have actually testified at their places of worship that they have been ‘cured of HIV through prayer’, as well as a small minority of faith leaders who somehow manage to convince their followers that taking ARVs will kill them outright. Some HIV positive people also visit witch doctors, sangomas, and/or traditional healers, and are predictably told that no trace of HIV exists in their blood, encouraging them to abandon their ARVs altogether. In fact, the discussion about witch doctors and HIV deserves a blog of its own!

Overall, I respect the fact that faith is very individual and private, and whatever people want to believe is entirely up to them. However, this can make it very difficult to monitor any negative impacts that religious faith might have on the lives of vulnerable populations targeted by those who wish to exploit them and extort what little money they have. How many people are targeted, I don’t think anyone knows, but I strongly feel that this is a worrying phenomenon that deserves much more attention, and possible interventions, if we are to continue to help save lives.

What I am very clear about is that ARV treatment and prayer should complement each other, not compete against each other. Above all else, the God I have faith in is a generous one and helps those who help themselves by taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

Faith-Based Organizations and AIDS: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. 2010

People within organizations should expose the underlying forces driving their agendas, and organizations operating in coalition should be encouraged to offer up a statement of principles so that hidden biases can be revealed.

The Body

By Jacqui Patterson
Winter 2009/2010
Introduction

"Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give thee rest." As a Christian and a proponent of social justice for all, I have some questions regarding churches' response to AIDS.

I've enjoyed ten years of working in faith-based organizations (FBOs) that fight AIDS, and have seen much to inspire, educate, and horrify me. I'll base my comments on human rights and love, both of which are biblical principles, even if "human rights" isn't stated in those terms in the Bible.

There is a lot that is compelling about the work of FBOs in AIDS and a lot that, while compatible in theory, is quite contradictory and damaging in practice. Because FBOs have received millions of dollars from the U.S. and other nations, and from other funding sources such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, it is critical to examine how they are working and what their impact is on nations, communities, families, and individuals.

Why Are Faith-Based Organizations Engaged in AIDS Work?

The Bible offers a clear mandate to care for people in need of help and to attempt to balance the scales of justice. Matthew 25:40 says, "Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me"; Micah 6:8 states, "What do I require of you?to live justly"; and 1 John 3:17 asks, "If anyone has enough money to live on and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help -- how can God's love be in that person?"

So it is not surprising that in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, FBOs provide up to 40% of all health care, and churches are present in many communities. At times there is no other health institution of any sort. In the U.S. there are also many faith-based health centers and other HIV service providers. The sheer presence and capacity of FBOs puts them in a good position to offer a range of services. Also, in many communities in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, the U.S., and to some extent Asia, there are very high percentages of Christians -- so the influence that FBOs and faith leaders have in the community is significant, for better or worse.

What Has Worked?

My first entrée to global work in AIDS was through an FBO. I was focused on supporting home-based care and hospices through Interchurch Medical Assistance World Health and its member organizations (a variety of mainline Protestant churches). The reach of these churches and FBOs into communities was tremendously helpful -- outreach workers were there for families and individuals in need of support and comfort in their final months. I also witnessed how the spiritual component offered great comfort, resulting in a peaceful death for many.

I've also seen churches have a very positive influence in the policy arena. The United Methodist Church, Lutheran Church, Church World Service, and others invested significant resources in policy analysis and mobilizing their congregations to advocate for increased funding for AIDS, as well as related issues like debt cancellation, which afforded countries the flexibility to assign more resources to health programs.

Similarly I've seen the establishment of the African Network of Religious Leaders Living with AIDS, which has worked to destigmatize HIV by having religious leaders speak out, offering messages of love and compassion, without judgment. Cristo Greyling and Gideon Byamugisha have encouraged language such as "The Body of Christ has AIDS" to signify that when one of us is infected, we all are, and that we need to address AIDS as a community issue -- not singling people out for blame.

In the last two years of my work with IMA World Health, I managed the organization's PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) treatment program. In theory, this should have gone well. FBOs have the reach, health facilities, relationships, and understanding of communities -- all of which should lead to a successful endeavor.

Indeed, the infrastructure afforded by the extensive networks of faith-based hospitals, clinics, and mobile units was a fantastic resource. Several of our partners were already successfully running treatment programs using generic drugs. At first the glut of resources and the prospect of being able to serve the hundreds of thousands in need of treatment was all very exhilarating. But those of us who were concerned about nuance came into conflict with the restrictions on reproductive health services, the inability to use generic drugs, and the "Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath," which restricts how organizations can use their funds to engage in speech or programs related to sex work. I found that many FBOs were not ready to buck the system on behalf of those they were supposed to serve. This strongly interfered with my ability to work, and I found myself in constant conflict. So, hundreds of thousands are receiving treatment through FBOs, and that's a good thing. But I put this on the cusp of the "What Hasn't Worked" section because I still ask, "At what cost?" and "Could we have done it better?"

What Hasn't Worked?

 In their AIDS response, churches have clearly been constrained by judgment and dogma. Kay Warren of the Saddleback Church rightfully pointed out, "The Church is more known for what it is against than what it is for." A friend of mine, Dazon Dixon Diallo of SisterLove in Atlanta, once said she wants to make a bumper sticker that reads, "Jesus Please Come Back and Save Us from Your Followers!" The words of Martin Luther King Jr. are also very apt: "Yes, I see the Church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists."

On one hand there has been judgment regarding people with HIV and rhetoric around "the wages of sin equal death" and "you reap what you sow." At the 2008 Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance in Mexico City, one religious leader spoke of the condemnation and judgment she has faced since declaring her HIV status. There has also been stigma around certain high-risk populations, leading to damaging programs or outright neglect.

There are many examples of the influence of conservative Christian ideology and personalities on policy development. When PEPFAR was being designed, there were multiple forces influencing its policies, such as the Institute for Youth Development and the Children's AIDS Fund, which had an ideology rooted in conservative Christianity. This challenge to the separation of church and state should have been revealed early on and dealt with head on. Instead, it led to policies that didn't follow the scientific literature or the actual experience of gender inequality and other dynamics. Ideological polices masqueraded as evidence, like the Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath and the emphasis on HIV prevention through abstinence and fidelity to the exclusion of the proven effectiveness of condoms.

The gender inequality in many churches also permeates the societies where they are influential. This has played out in messages stating that being faithful is protection against HIV, when for many married women this is a death sentence. Both partners have to be HIV negative and monogamous for this to be effective. Yet people are offered simple messages without caveats. Church-based instruction on submission to one's husband has led women to stay in relationships with unfaithful husbands and to suffer violence at their hands. Often, churches do not offer guidance on the protection of women, focusing instead on the "sanctity of marriage" and "'til death do us part," regardless of the risk to the often powerless woman.

At the 2008 Ecumenical Pre-Conference in Mexico City, I appreciated the dialogue around gender, and specifically patriarchy, in the church. But there was no space in the program for the LGBT community and its issues -- unfortunate, given the early and continued epidemiology of HIV as well as the continued discrimination against LGBT people. How can there be an entire HIV conference without space for LGBT matters when we have had activists like Sizekele Sigasa and Salome Moosa, champions for HIV justice, who were murdered in South Africa in a vicious hate crime? When we have Solomon Adderly Wellington, a noted gay HIV activist in the Bahamas, murdered? When we have the President of the Gambia vowing to lop off the heads of gay people and criminalize any who offer safe harbor? When we have Steve Harvey, a gay HIV activist from the Jamaica Support Services slain in a country where there are more churches per capita than anywhere in the world? (Jamaica is my country of origin, yet I'm embarrassed to say that I would warn my gay friends about even visiting there, knowing that they risk life and limb due to homophobia.) And when we now have Uganda attempting to pass a law similar to that in Gambia, with the instigation of this legislation allegedly resting at the feet of certain U.S. evangelical churches.

Where are the voices of churches on these issues? Where is the high-profile public statement condemning such heinous hate crimes? Instead, there is much condemnation of same-sex relationships, and the intensity of Christian leaders' words, deeds, and attitudes seem to indicate that they are more concerned about these acts of love than acts of hate. One colleague spoke about being invited to dinner and learning mid-meal that his host was gay. He said, "There I was eating the food?." And this is a person who is in charge of HIV programs for his denomination! A participant in a workshop I facilitated stated that many in the church are only ready to embrace people who are "like us" by whatever notion of self-proclaimed sanctity "we" in the church define ourselves. My purpose here is not to sway those in the church who find a biblical basis to oppose homosexuality but rather to question their application of biblical principles. I ask them, what would Jesus do?

At Rick Warren's 2006 Saddleback Church conference an awkwardly titled session, "Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would?" led to hopes that this evangelical leader was questioning attitudes toward LGBT people. Instead, it was a panel of speakers from the "ex-gay" movement, not a workshop offering guidance on how churches could be safe spaces that welcome all and uphold justice within a range of beliefs. They went beyond many churches in even holding such a workshop, but they need to take it further.

Does being known more for condemnation of individuals (and cozying up to big pharma and other questionable allies) instead of fighting for justice and human rights match the scene of Jesus in the temple overturning the tables of the money changers? Does it fit with the image of Jesus embracing and blessing a sex worker? His directive to her was to "go and sin no more." Repentance wasn't a precursor for his embrace. His championship of justice was not selective.

One of the conflicts I experienced in my work with the AIDS Relief Consortium was the need to include prevention programs with the treatment work we were doing, as it makes little sense to be doing treatment alone. That would be like trying to plug holes in a dam while more spring open. A group that was in charge of $330 million of AIDS funding was constrained in the prevention resources it could provide. The restrictions came from the ideologically driven PEPFAR guidelines, which mandate how much funding can be used for treatment and what emphasis must be placed on abstinence and fidelity. In addition, the organizational policies of Catholic Relief Services don't allow condom distribution or a full range of reproductive health services.

Many in the church refer to the AIDS pandemic as an "opportunity for evangelism." Ken Isaacs of Samaritan's Purse stated "AIDS has created an evangelism opportunity for the body of Christ unlike any in history." Community Health Evangelism offers a presentation entitled "HIV/AIDS in Asia: A Window of Opportunity for Community Health Evangelism." This is troubling on at least two levels. First, there's the notion that people could be celebrating such a dread disease -- as if it was sent so that they could save more souls. Second, the idea of "bread in one hand and the Bible in the other" could lead to the coercion of people who are in a vulnerable position.

Recommendations

There are critical roles for FBOs that contribute substantially to the well-being of communities, families, and individuals with HIV. Some FBOs have used their influence to advocate for needed policies, including debt cancellation and universal access to treatment. Religious groups have also used their reach in communities to ensure that there is a comprehensive web of support for people with HIV. I applaud these efforts and hope that these initiatives persist and multiply.

But FBOs should establish guiding principles so that everyone knows where each organization stands. I pushed for the establishment of such principles and values at the Pan African Christian AIDS Network. All were enthusiastically in favor. But when we completed the process, it included a clause saying, "Marriage should only be between a man and a woman." I decided then that it was time to bid adieu, as I am an uncompromisingly staunch ally of LGBT rights.

People within organizations should expose the underlying forces driving their agendas, and coalitions should be encouraged to offer up a statement of principles so that hidden biases can be revealed.

Advocacy conducted by FBOs should be based on principles of human rights. If this is the guideline, the automatic corresponding principle is "do no harm." The judgment-based advocacy that has resulted in such policies as the Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath and hateful anti-gay legislation such as that being discussed in Uganda that proposes the death penalty for loving persons of the same sex would not pass the "do no harm" test.

There is a role for abstinence in HIV prevention. It's possible to choose abstinence and it's good to have support in adhering to that choice. But doctrines and societal edicts are not enough if someone makes another choice or if people find themselves in situations where they have little or no choice. People who are in these circumstances need to know the options for keeping themselves as safe as possible.

Finally, let's reward FBOs that are doing good work, replicate those practices, and emphasize these positive models. There are churches that have articulated biblical bases for supporting women's rights and gay rights, and who promote a broad range of social justice issues. There are others who have devoted themselves to treatment, the care of orphans and vulnerable children, economic development, peace work, and hospice care through highly effective work. We need many more like them.

 

Searching for Solutions to AIDS. 27/6/10

The benefit obtained through the intervention of something designed to reduce risk can be offset by people becoming careless with their behavior.

Catholic.net

By Father John Flynn, LC
27 June 2010

Rome(Zenit.org).- The Catholic Church is regularly pilloried for its refusal to back the use of condoms in fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS. This nonacceptance is not only sound moral teaching, but it also has solid scientific foundations.

That’s the thesis of a book just published by the National Catholic Bioethics Center, based in Philadelphia. In "Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS: What Africa Can Teach the West," Matthew Hanley and Jokin de Irala take a look at why efforts to stop the spread of the HIV virus in Africa have had so little success and how this is linked to the reliance on condoms.

Hanley was the HIV/AIDS technical advisor for Catholic Relief Services until 2008 and is specialized in HIV prevention. De Irala is deputy director of the Department of Preventative Medicine and Public Health at the University of Navarra in Spain.

The authors start by noting that almost all the Western institutions active in this area share the firm opinion that risk reduction strategies, such as the promotion of condom use, must be a priority. What they term the "AIDS Establishment" has concentrated on technical means rather than on behavioral change.

The exception to this was the change in policy by the United States to adopt an ABC strategy following the success of Uganda in using this approach to deal with AIDS. The "A" stands for abstinence, "B" for be faithful, and "C" for condom use.

It's the first two parts to this strategy that are crucial, the book argues. In fact, wherever there has been falling HIV rates in Africa, it has been the result of fundamental changes in sexual behavior.

Prevention

Seeking to modify how people behave is not only more successful but, the authors add, is a common-sense return to medicine's principle of primary prevention. Prevention of HIV transmission is urgent in parts of the world such as Africa, where there are serious difficulties in providing adequate medical treatment.

Hanley and de Irala make a comparison with the use of tobacco. Maybe once it seemed unrealistic to change a situation where 75% of people smoked, but public health authorities embarked on campaigns to change such lifestyle choices, with success.

Why is it then, they ask, that when it comes to tobacco, cholesterol, sedentary lifestyles, and excessive consumption of alcohol, authorities consider them to be behaviors that require change, but sexual behavior associated with disease is not?

One problem associated with reliance on a risk reduction approach that looks to technical fixes instead of changes in behavior is that it can lead to what is called risk compensation. This means that the benefit obtained through the intervention of something designed to reduce risk can be offset by people becoming careless with their behavior.

The authors point out that just as a seatbelt is no guarantee of safety if someone thinks they can drive faster than normal because they are protected by it, so too condom promotion can lead to people thinking it is safe to engage in greater sexual activity.

This is particularly relevant in Africa, where studies show that when a significant number of people are engaged in concurrent sexual relationships the chances of infection are much higher compared to communities where people reduce multiple partnerships. A decline in multiple sexual partnerships is crucial to bringing about a decline in HIV rates, the authors affirm.

The best example of this was in Uganda, where HIV infection rates dropped from 15% in 1991 to 5% in 2001. What brought about this radical change was a major shift in sexual behavior, the book notes.

This wholly rational decision to avoid the risk of a fatal and traumatic disease by altering behavior ultimately spared millions of lives,” the authors add.

Condom use

While the rate of condom use in Uganda was similar to that of Zambia, Kenya and Malawi, the number of non-regularpartners in Uganda sharply decreased. And while the HIV rate went down in Uganda it did not decrease in the other countries.

One of the reasons behind the success in modifying conduct in Uganda, the authors point out, was the work of Catholic nuns and doctors. An Anglican bishop and a Catholic bishop were also among the first presidents of the country AIDS commission.

Unfortunately in recent years the AIDS establishment has gained influence in Uganda and the emphasis has shifted toward promoting the use of condoms. This has been accompanied by an increase in HIV transmission.

Kenya, Thailand and Haiti are additional countries that the authors refer to in citing evidence from studies that show how behavioral change leads to a reduction in the rates of HIV transmission.

By contrast, in South Africa, where promotion of condom use has been the main priority, the persistently high rates of multiple partnerships has helped to maintain the level of HIV infections at what the authors describe as an alarmingly high incidence

The idea of abstinence does not sit easily with contemporary culture, but Hanley and de Irala point out that while fidelity appears to have been the most important factor in Africa success, abstinence is also important.

Abstinence influences future behavior, they maintain, and the earlier a person initiates sexual activity the more lifetime sexual partners that person is likely to have, thus increasing the risk of contracting HIV.

The book refers to a study carried out by the United States Agency for International Development which looked at variables associated with HIV prevalence in Benin, Cameroon, Keyna and Zambia.

It concluded that the only factors associated with lower HIV prevalence were lower lifetime number of partners (fidelity), an older age of sexual debut (abstinence), and male circumcision. The study also found that socio-economic status and condoms use were not associated with lower HIV prevalence.

In spite of this and other evidence provided in the book the authors point out that the documents on AIDS published by the United Nations describe the use of condoms as the most effective technology for AIDS prevention.

Condoms may well be the most effective technology; for reducing these infections, the authors admit, but the are certainly not the most effective prevention measure.

Human sexuality

While this debate over how to deal with HIV is often cast in scientific language Hanley and de Irala maintain that it is more of a contrast between two moral and philosophical approaches to human sexuality. On one side there is the Judeo-Christian tradition, which sees sexuality as within the institution of marriage. This tradition recognized moral boundaries and the practice of self-restraint as a way to achieve human fulfillment.

On the other side is the modern Western culture that exalts absolute freedom in the pursuit of pleasure. This explains why this conceptual approach looks for technical means to deal with the undesirable consequences of sexual activity.

On June 9 Archbishop Celestino Milgiore, the permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations addressed the General Assembly on the issue of HIV/AIDS.

If AIDS is to be combated by realistically facing its deeper causes and the sick are to be given the loving care they need, we need to provide people with more than knowledge, ability, technical competence and tools, he said.

He recommended that more attention and resources be dedicated to supporting a value-based approach grounded in the human dimension of sexuality.

What we need, he continued, is an honest evaluation of past approaches that may have been based more on ideology than on science and values, and for determined action that respects human dignity and promotes the integral development of each and every person and of all society.

An appeal for all to cast aside prejudices and pre-conceived notions when it comes to dealing with this grave problem.

 

Reflection from Cameroon from AJANews. 03/09

AJANews 77 - March 2009

CAMEROON: AN ESSAY
Joseph Désiré Havyarimana SJ is a member of Rwanda-Burundi Jesuit Region and a Masters student in social anthropology at the Catholic University of Central Africa in Yaoundé. An experience shared in AJANews and the writings of a Cameroonian anthropologist prompted him to think about the need for an all-embracing approach to the struggle against HIV and AIDS. Dedicating this entire issue of AJANews to his reflections, we welcome your reactions. 

I often wonder about approaches to the struggle against HIV and AIDS and about how sexual violence figures in. Can one fight effectively against transmission of the virus in situations of sexual violence? What becomes of victims who resign themselves to their fate, bearing consequences of something they never chose in the first place? 

Learning the right questions

The more I read testimonies and outcomes of research, the more I realise that I am not the only one asking such questions. It made me very happy to read the testimony of Winston Mina SJ, a Filipino doctor and then a novice of the Jesuit Missouri Province, in AJANews 70 - August 2008. He believed he had already learned all there was to know about HIV and AIDS but, after working with AJAN, he realised that he had much to learn as yet. His conclusion prompted me to reflect on the challenges of the struggle against the pandemic: 

All my new-found knowledge points to a truth that I did not appreciate before: AIDS is not just a medical problem; it is a complex development and justice issue. Addressing it effectively requires going beyond ARVs and CD4 counts. Employment, income distribution, food availability, education, gender inequality, sexuality, availability and accessibility of health care, peace and order and political stability must be addressed. Given the complexity of the problem, it is imperative that all the different sectors of society and countries of the world come together to control the pandemic. 

Mina pinpoints certain structural causes of the pandemic, which all activities related to the struggle against HIV and AIDS should tackle, rather than merely limiting themselves to routes of transmission of the virus. Too often, we may be led to believe that the abstinence-fidelity-condom trilogy is a miraculous solution and that it is enough to administer this recipe for people to put it into practice. Far from it. The testimony of Mina seeks to disabuse us of such an illusion. 

Somewhat like Mina, I used to believe that I knew quite a bit about HIV and AIDS, until I read and reread a book by Prof. Sévérin Cécile Abega (+2008), an anthropologist, writer and university professor. Abega sought to account for the persistently high HIV prevalence rates in Africa, especially in Cameroon where he undertook his research. The pertinence of his analysis renewed my interest in the problem, especially as regards the advantages to be gained by taking a long-term view, namely to attack the true causes of the expansion of this scourge in Africa. 

The mastery premise

In his book, Les violences sexuelles et l'État au Cameroun (Sexual violence and the State in Cameroon), Éditions Karthala, 2007, Abega identifies the social determinants and factors explaining the pandemic: sexual activity and some of its modalities like multiple partners and not using condoms, male domination of women, and so on. All this gave rise to the creation of awareness-raising tools aimed at encouraging the adoption of minimum risk sexual behaviours as per the abstinence-fidelity-condom trilogy. However, there are grounds to fear that in reality, the success of awareness campaigns based on such tools is limited - this explains the progression of prevalence rates - because the behaviours presume strong self-discipline and a real mastery over one's own body. In other words, abstinence, fidelity and the use of condoms are based on the premise that an individual has mastery over his or her body. But is this always the case? Can one always abstain, be faithful to a faithful partner, even when one desires to do so with all one's might? Has it not been shown, for example, that people who have been sexually abused are more at risk of exposure to unprotected sex, to having multiple partners and to exchanging sex for money or drugs? Has it not been proved that physical violence, the threat of violence or the fear of being abandoned curb the capacity of women to ensure that condoms are used or to break off relationships that they perceive as risky? Certain situations such as inequality, continues Abega, do not allow for the adoption of minimum risk behaviours because they weaken the control a person has over his or her own body. 

Moreover, the oft-cited HIV vulnerability factors, like poverty and gender inequality, are not immediate causes. The primary hypothesis of Abega is that vulnerability to HIV cannot be understood as anything other than the manifestation of historic processes that have been going on since before colonisation up to our time.  

Sexual violence and the State

Abega argues that this diachronic reasoning cannot be complete without a synchronic approach, which understands the causes identified to be manifestations of a larger system, namely the State. He says that research in the human and social sciences adequately proves that violence is endemic in the relations that take shape between the citizen and the State in Africa. Specifically, he contends, it is insertion in administrative structures, the recognition that one is a member of the State personnel, which makes for violence: One is no longer just anybody and may believe oneself untouchable and protected by the State machine being served. This prompts the use of violence in near-total impunity. This violence could thus characterise caring and teaching staff as well as those in other settings like police, prefects and so on. It is also the prerogative of political powers or rather of governments who, lacking real legitimacy, seek to affirm their dominance by resorting to the use of force. This was the case in the first years of independence in Africa, especially in Cameroon. 

Abega believes that such violence is a factor contributing to sexual vulnerability. He affirms loudly and clearly that sexual vulnerability of women and of young people is manifest in Cameroon due to: administrative practices; agents of the State; laws that do not evolve fast enough to take social changes into account; and a system that concentrates political power and money in the hands of an urban elite, while leaving the majority, especially the rural masses, in poverty. Inequality also plays a role, for the hand that receives is always lower than the one which gives, limiting the possibility of negotiating a relationship as equals, including the exercise and control of one's sexuality. Finally, this violence is also that of a failed system which embeds in the language of witchcraft or sorcery the evolutions that seem to cast the established order into doubt, even when this is the outcome of an economic crisis and/or a crisis of values. Needless to say, what is true for Cameroon may well be true for most of sub-Saharan Africa. 

Creating the 'Other'

The point of all this violence, says Abega, is to create the Other. The Other belongs first and foremost to another ethnic group. And if the Other used to be set apart by his race in times of colonisation and apartheid, one may say that the mechanism recurs nowadays with the emergence of new forms of social stratification. Within the State, the Other is not a member of another ethnic group or a neighbouring tribe; he must be determined by mechanisms of hierarchy and stigmatisation. Thus, we witness the creation of a social class which surrounds itself with privileges and creates the Other, in this case a deprived social category. And this enterprise is proven to be successful when it is interiorised by those whom it is suppressing, to the point that the situation appears normal to them. This interiorisation, continues Abega, also occurs on the sexual level. 

The above is convincing. It proposes avenues likely to rein in the expansion of the pandemic in Africa, while showing us that the struggle is much wider than often imagined. The challenge appears to be that of searching for those factors and causes, according to each country, which lead to a loss of control over one's own body; and the aim would be to restore this control to Africans. While Prof. Abega goes back to the pre-colonial period to discover how this control declined down through the ages, Winston Mina points to important factors that are likely to perpetuate this decline today. He suggests that unemployment, mal-distribution of income, unavailability of food and education, gender inequality, unavailable and inaccessible medical care, war, disorder and political instability need to be tackled. These factors create inequality and aggravate vulnerability by putting those who are disadvantaged at the mercy of those who are well off and who at the end of the day decide when, where and how sexual relationships take place. 

Not just a medical problem

It is high time that those involved in the struggle against HIV and AIDS take the analysis and suggestions of men like Winston Mina and Sévérin Cécile Abega seriously, when they say that AIDS is not just a medical problem. The challenge we now face is how to restore to men, women and children control over their own bodies in a world where inequalities are and will remain a reality for a long time. How to restore the value of self-respect in a context where mastering one's sexuality is difficult and no longer a priority for communities preoccupied with daily survival? I believe that Mina's conclusion cited at the beginning provides us with avenues along which to direct our activities. After all, HIV is a matter of development and justice; you cannot have one without the other. Morality would come in only to perfect what would already be perfect. 

And Dr Winston Mina SJ concludes his reflection: AIDS is a problem that robs those afflicted and affected of their dignity and of their humanity, diminishing ours as well. All of humanity, with God's grace, is called to solve this problem. And this, perhaps, is the most important lesson of all.  

AJANews is published by the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) in English, French and Portuguese and is available free of charge. To subscribe, or to change your e-mail address, please click on Update Profile/Email Address below or write to ajanews@jesuitaids.net. 

Danielle Vella, Editor
Eric Simiyu Wanyonyi SJ and Marcel Uwineza SJ, Associate Editors
Michael Czerny SJ, Publisher

African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN)
Box 571 Sarit
00606 Nairobi, KENYA

fax: +254-20-387-7971
aids@jesuits.ca

http://www.jesuitaids.net

Bishop Beetge Calls for Action. 02/10/08

Part of speech delivered at the Diocesan Synod by Bishop David Beetge of the Diocese of the High Veldt in South Africa:

Members of Synod may well know that over the past few years I have been the Liaison Bishop for the Anglican Church in Southern Africa’s HIV and AIDS programmes and, of course I have been closely involved in this work in our Diocese since our inauguration as a Diocese. Recently, with two members of the Provincial Office, I attended the International AIDS Conference in Toronto. I do not want to reflect on the Conference here but I do want to make an appeal. From figures presented to the Conference and from figures available here, the AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa has reached alarming proportions. I want to express my gratitude to our Archbishop for his leadership in this area and for the support he has given the Provincial Office and Dioceses as we have built a capacity at Diocesan and Parish level to address this issue. I want tonight, in all earnestness, to make one appeal.

This pandemic has, as I have said, reached alarming proportions. No-one can tackle this one single handedly. We need a sustained and united effort to work towards a generation without AIDS. In a statement last week I called on the Government, and by Government I mean all levels of Government, National, Provincial and Local, to commit themselves to working with Faith Based Organizations and NGO’s in a creative partnership that will pool the capacity each one has, together with the resources available in this country and through the international community, in order to address this pandemic in the most holistic way possible. I am urging the Government and NGO’s, including the Treatment Action Campaign, for the sake of those who are suffering and for the sake of those whom we want to protect from this virus, to put behind them the conflict and differences between them and to seek a new multi – sector partnership that will address this pandemic urgently. I am convinced that the only way forward is by Government (at all levels), Academics, the Medical profession, Pharmaceutical industry, NGO’s, Faith Based Organizations and others coming together and working together to address this pandemic. I also called for a national consultation, which will include all sectors, to address this pandemic. In addition SANAC needs to include all sectors and to meet on a regular basis so that this pandemic can be addressed by a united response within the country. I renew this call tonight.

HIV and AIDS is not just a medical problem or an individual problem – it’s a social problem too. It’s a social problem because the whole community, including the church, is affected in high-prevalence areas. It’s a social problem, because social factors like stigma, denial, gender inequality, and poverty help HIV to spread in our communities and exacerbate the effects of the pandemic. HIV and AIDS stigma exists because many people see HIV infection as a mark of shame, associating it with immorality and death. Actually, HIV is just a virus, and AIDS can now be treated as a chronic disease. People sometimes justify putting distance between themselves and people they know with HIV because they are worried about infection. But as you know, it’s luckily extremely difficult to catch HIV except by unprotected sex, sharing dirty needles or blood transfusions.

Contracting a chronic illness is a very high price to pay for love, and no-one deserves it. But because HIV is mainly sexually transmitted, and has been associated with adultery and premarital sex, some people feel that it is shameful, that it must be some kind of punishment or consequence of immoral sex. In fact, people can contract HIV through any unprotected sex, including rape, or sex within in a faithful relationship, if their partner happens to be HIV-positive. We should promote responsible, loving relationships within the Christian ethos, but we need to recognize that HIV does not have morals, and it’s not only transmitted by certain kinds of sexual activity. Tackling HIV requires talking openly about the importance of having safer sex and knowing one’s status, even in faithful, Christian relationships.

Stigma is unfair, it feeds on ignorance, and it has bad consequences. It makes us think that if we are good and faithful Christians we are immune to HIV: ‘HIV happens to someone else, not me’. In fact, this is mainly why we stigmatise: to feel safer ourselves, we push others away. Stigma sometimes makes us feel ashamed and judged for having HIV/AIDS, and forced to hide our status from loved ones, at a time we most need their love and support for being sick. Fear of stigma and discrimination is almost as bad: it can make us avoid doing things because we are worried about other people’s reactions.

AIDS is a call to the church to really look at our humanity in a very deep and positive way. It is a call to love: to embrace and support each other, whether we ourselves have HIV or are affected by HIV and AIDS in our families and communities. It is a call to lament: to mourn and challenge the inequalities and prejudices that make it difficult for us to deal with this pandemic. And it is a call to act: to challenge all forms of stigma and prejudice, as we did in the Apartheid years.

We recently commissioned a study on the nature and extent of HIV and AIDS-related stigma in the Anglican Church of the Province of Southern Africa. Some of you may be aware of the study, and some of you may even have participated. The Human Sciences Research Council is busy preparing the report as we speak. Over 850 questionnaires were completed anonymously in five countries of the ACSA, 130 of them by people living with HIV and AIDS, nearly two thirds of whom were Anglicans and the rest were members of support groups in our church. Two questionnaires - a general one, and one specifically for people living with HIV and AIDS - were prepared by the research team, with the help of the Anglican AIDS Office, an Anglican reference group and stigma researchers internationally. This is the first time we know of that such a survey has been done in a faith-based organization like a church.

Preliminary data from the survey suggests that regular church members and clergy know about the efficacy of condom use in HIV prevention. The church has taken a strong anti-stigma position at the highest level, and survey respondents were not highly judgemental. Only ten percent of respondents to the general questionnaire agreed or partly agreed to the proposition that people living with HIV or AIDS were not good Christians. Around ten percent of respondents also agreed or partly agreed that people living with HIV or AIDS were being punished by God. This can be contrasted to much higher levels of agreement on this question in a study across different denominations in Tanzania, around 44%. In spite of low levels of blame directed at others, we found relatively high levels of self-shame (internalised stigma) expressed by the general sample when asked how they would feel if they or a family member were HIV-positive.

What is more worrying is that people report others in their congregation holding more judgemental views than themselves. For example, as much as twenty percent of respondents to the general questionnaire reported that others in their congregation were likely to agree or partly agree to the proposition that people living with HIV or AIDS were not good Christians. Around 25 percent of respondents said that others in their congregation were likely to agree or partly agree that people living with HIV or AIDS were being punished by God. The level of discriminatory and exclusionary practice was low, but nevertheless of some concern. Thirteen percent had observed others in the congregation insulting or humiliating people living with HIV or AIDS because of their status, and ten percent of people living with HIV or AIDS sampled reported experiencing this personally in the last year. The effects of stigmatisation are felt by family members too. Sixteen percent of respondents to the general questionnaire reported that they knew of children or family members of someone living with HIV and AIDS who had been humiliated and insulted because of it in the last year, although not necessarily within the church. Respondents reported observing or experiencing relatively low but nevertheless worrying rates of total exclusion from the church: 4% of people living with HIV or AIDS reported being told to stop attending church because of their status – remember, not all of the people responding to this questionnaire were Anglicans.

In our church, the shared communion cup represents both a spiritual engagement with God and a statement of inclusion in the church community. Some people living with HIV and AIDS are missing out on this ritual at a time when they most need it, and this is happening in our own Diocese. Over all, about 14% of people living with HIV or AIDS reported that they had attended church less often since their diagnosis because they felt judged and criticized and about the same number reported others refusing to share the communion cup with them. Incidents of refusal to share the communion cup with people living with HIV or AIDS in the last year were reported by about a third of the HIV and AIDS coordinators and Bishops sampled. Regional variations suggest that in some areas the problem is more serious than others.

There is some completely unnecessary but very real concern within congregations about casual transmission of HIV. Knowledge about HIV and AIDS transmission is not very strong in certain areas (e.g. casual transmission through kissing). Ignorance and doubt about modes of HIV transmission can be linked to fear of sharing the communion cup with HIV-positive people. Belief in transmission by sharing cups and plates also seems to be correlated with other beliefs, such as the belief that PLWHA are being punished by God and that PLWHA are not good Christians.

In a social environment that is not always welcoming, and faced with personal crisis, we turn to God and our church for support. A PACSA study found that even where people did not disclose their status to the priest or church members, they found great strength through their relationship with God. In our study, over half of the PLWHA sampled (about two thirds of whom were Anglican) had discussed their status with God, while just over a third had discussed it with a religious leader. Over half had attended church more often since their diagnosis.

About half of the respondents to both questionnaires said their congregation was very welcoming and caring towards people living with HIV and AIDS, and another quarter said their congregation was quite welcoming and caring. Over half of the respondents to both questionnaires reported that people in their congregation thought it was good to discuss HIV and AIDS. People living with HIV and AIDS tended to report very slightly lower agreement on these questions.

In general, our preliminary results suggest that the Anglican church is probably an environment in which people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS receive considerable support, but also experience some stigma and discrimination. The moral power of the church does give extra weight to stigmatising or anti-stigma statements from the pulpit. We are fortunate to have an Archbishop who has led the way in tackling the problem of stigma. But we still need to support priests and bishops in developing AIDS-friendly parishes on the ground.

Stigma has its roots in fear. We are afraid of contracting HIV, we are afraid of speaking about the problem in case we are identified with the illness, and we are afraid of disclosing our HIV status in case we are judged, criticized or discriminated against. In order to move towards a more inclusive relationship with our fellow Christians, we need to create safe environments in which we can all speak openly of our fears, and share information and experiences. We have the resources to deal with fear: an ethics of hospitality and compassionate care, a recognition that we have all sinned but strive to be better, and the capacity to provide each other with trustworthy and relevant information.

Even after Apartheid, the church continues to have a major role to play in terms of social cohesion and social justice, in southern Africa. Both social cohesion and social justice are built on love and trust, and love and trust in turn are built on a secure environment. In this time of need where statistics show that in South Africa the total number of children under the age of 18 who have lost one or both parents is expected to peak at 5.6 million in 2014 and where abuse of children continues to be rife, the church needs to be a place of safety and nurture. We need to make sure that our church offers the sanctuary of safety and the security of trust to those who practice their humanity within our community, as well as those with whose care we are charged. The church as with all public institutions provides space for encouraging certain cultural values. The culture and community that the church desires to build is one of love and compassion, tolerance and forgiveness, a community that lives the good news of Jesus Christ. The attainment of such a culture is severely hindered by stigmatizing practices and other destructive behaviour that break trust and social cohesion. I am calling on all of our congregations to ensure that the space they occupy is a “safe space” for all especially the most vulnerable in our society.

Love, compassion and trust are all products of a cohesive community rich in social justice and what some call social capital. ‘Social capital cannot be found in a treasury or a bank. Its currency is culture. Culture stores the life practices and assumptions of a people. Culture circulates between individuals, families, groups, institutions and throughout the society as a whole. Culture forms and regulates the ways people live together. Its most powerful form of regulation is informal, silent and taken for granted. Social capital is first minted in the family, where adult parents, generally without realising it, transmit their own history and the culture of their life world to their children. The child inherits a framework for making sense of life, building an identity and realising the boundaries of difference’ (HSRC Morphet et al 2004.)

We are likewise powerfully influenced, each one of us, by our participation in the family of the church. The ‘church’ is at one time a building, an institution and a community, a structure ideal for taking in those with needs and ministering to them with love. Our Church can take the lead by openly disavowing the practices of stigmatisation and rejection that make poor people desperate, and by using our resources to support the needy. By doing so we will redirect fear into compassionate and appropriate action.

The Highveld Anglican Board of Social Responsibility (HABSR) is presently being constituted as a Section 21 Company. This process, when it is completed, will enable us to embark upon a fund-raising campaign for this ministry and for our projects. I will ask the Board to consider the services of a professional fund raising organization but we also need to commit ourselves to this work. If we could have 1 000 people contributing an average of R100-00 per month (for some might only be able to manage a lesser amount but many can manage more) what a difference we could make to those in need in this area. This is a challenge I present to Synod tonight – to enlist 1 000 people (or parishes) to commit a monthly amount towards our Social Responsibility work. We live in an area where people are in great need. As the Anglican Church in these parts we must play our part. Carol and I will gladly be the first to subscribe and will pledge R100-00 per month as from October. Will you do the same? And will you make this known in your parish and see if we can raise 1 000 people by Easter 2007? In the words of Jesus: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of any family, you did it to me”. (Matthew 25:40).

 

Learning To Be Church In The Time Of AIDS. 02/07/08

Kenya: From AJANews 69, July 2008

At a Theology Symposium on Ecclesial Witness in the Global World, held in March 2008 at Tangaza College, Kenya, Michael Czerny SJ, AJAN Coordinator, reviewed the experience of the faith community vis-à-vis AIDS.

Man no longer perceives properly, understands properly, desires properly, or acts properly. This lament from Bantu oral tradition, more than just a critique, can be seen as a call to action, to become, as Bernard Lonergan writes in Method in Theology, our true selves by observing the transcendental precepts: Be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable and be responsible. Each precept takes us further, promoting us from mere experiencing towards understanding, from mere understanding towards truth and reality, from factual knowledge to responsible action. As we learn to be Church in the context of HIV and AIDS, our journey is an ever more exacting application of this mandate for authenticity.

1. Be attentive and show compassion
A leper came up to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: 'If you want to' he said, 'you can cure me.' Feeling sorry for him, Jesus said, 'Of course I want to!' and stretched out his hand and touched him and said, 'Be cured!' And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured (Mark 1:40-41). To touch is to draw near enough to pay attention and listen, not to keep at arm's length or even further. Drawing near, to see the human face of AIDS, without being too afraid of suffering and death, is to show compassion which heals. This We Teach and Do, the Kenya Catholic AIDS Policy, says: Let everything be done, not only with efficiency and professional competence, but also with the hands and mind and heart of Jesus - not just excellent, but clearly Christian.

2. Be intelligent and competent, and really learn to understand AIDS
AIDS is complex; it is not just medical, not just traditional culture, not just women's empowerment, and not just individual behaviour change. AIDS is not the only challenge in Africa, but it is a most serious one and, like a window, opens up on nearly all the others. This We Teach and Do gives a long list of powerful contributing factors, which make infection as well as the onset of AIDS more likely: First of all, grinding poverty throughout Africa, situations of injustice and, in many places, conflict and involuntary displacement. In order to understand HIV and AIDS, we add intelligence, competence and serious research to our opening attention and compassion.

3. Be reasonable, including the good!
Church teaching urges men and women to treat each other as sons and daughters of God. It is not the risk of HIV, which makes sexual licence immoral; the Church does not teach a different sexual morality when or where AIDS poses no danger. But this teaching is not easy for the world to accept. The Church encourages everyone to live an integral sexuality, which means behaving responsibly. All those involved in the Church's ministry - pastorally, in education and in healthcare - should help people to develop a well-formed conscience. This includes the Church's moral teaching as well as solid information about HIV and AIDS.

4. Be responsible and serve
The Church has been responding practically since the beginning. Usually those who first take up the challenge are prophetic, heroic, but gradually the ministry is mainstreamed. Note the process: HIV-and-AIDS-work begins way beyond the pastoral edge; then the Church slowly expands her frontiers, bringing outside issues in and making them her own, in the heart of parish ministries and the commitment of her Bishops. What was out is now in, but slowly.

The Church needs to do more in two senses: first, what she is already doing well needs to be multiplied; secondly, more creative, focused and sustainable responses need to be developed. As we face and fight AIDS, we are becoming the Church which Christ calls us to be. In the words of Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster visiting Zimbabwe: It is when caring for the poor, sick and most vulnerable to bring them hope that the Church is at her finest.

Healing the Church through a Pandemic: Ecclesial Reflections on the Scriptures. 03/03/08

Speech for Tearfund by the Revd David Peck, Archbishop of Canterbury's Secretary for International Development

3/3/2008 

I want to talk this morning—as we prepare to enter Holy Week—about repentance and redemption. Specifically, how the church can turn at least some of its stigmatising into repentance; and some of its laments in the time of HIV and AIDS into a redemption song. If it is truly the case that we are healed by God's wounds on the cross, then we must also see the potential for a divine intervention in which the church is healed by those who are afflicted by this pandemic. 

Musa Dube, the great Botswanan theologian, has for a decade told the church that we need our bible study to be more contextual.[1] In a world where tens of millions of our neighbours are infected and affected with HIV and AIDS, we are long overdue in reading our bibles in the light of the pandemic, and in the light of our own need for healing as the body of Christ.

I am so grateful to Tearfund for the invitation to speak to this gathering. But my wife was horrified that I accepted this invitation. What can you tell Tearfund or Kay Warren about either AIDS or the Bible? Absolutely nothing I replied. But I have a lot to learn that I will never know unless I agree to speak. So thank you to Rachel Carnegie and all her Tearfund colleagues for this overwhelming opportunity to learn by being forced to teach. 

As I reflect on global and local responses to the AIDS crisis the last 20 or so years I will talk about three paradigms—or responses to the pandemic. The first in terms of a stigmatising response based on a misreading of our scriptures. The second to very briefly consider the compassion and care response and global solidarity which Tearfund and others have pioneered with partners in the UK and global south. But mostly I hope to focus on the third paradigm, where we are not just caring for and calling for better treatment of those who are positive and carrying the multiple burdens of poverty and illness in the absence of health care, but as churches North and South, East and West, actually being healed ourselves by the wounds which HIV and AIDS inflict upon us. 

I give thanks that in his providence God put me in Zimbabwe a week ago to read my bible and prepare for this day. To read the bible in Zimbabwe is a fearful thing. It is so frightening because one's own belief hangs over an abyss of suffering and undoing by death that unbelief is so obviously a rational response. Can the word of God really speak in this context where millions are infected with the virus? And when they are sick stand so little chance of getting paracetemol, let alone anti retro-viral treatments, from their government? And what on earth can the church do amidst a national crisis when it can not even cope with burying the dead?

We know that when Christians first read their bibles in the light of the pandemic the most vocal among us responded to some of the most vulnerable people by creating a global response of "I told you so" prejudice and hypocrisy that created a wall of stigma so high it will still take us years to tear it down. With notable exceptions (and Tearfund was one) It took most of us a decade to respond with something better than prejudice or stigma, and that was silence. After two decades and the deaths of 25 million people—most of whom were our fellow Christians—we are beginning to find repentance for our sins. My brothers and sisters, what in God's name were we thinking? And what in God's word were we reading? 

I want to remind us all where we made some wrong turns in our biblical approaches in the early years of the virus. Of course we remember good Evangelicals who denounced those with the virus and even reinforced the connection between AIDS and sin because of the ease of its sexual transmission. How smug we were that the transmission could only take place outside the safe enclave of Christian marriage and family life. And it all seemed as clear as it was untrue. Many of us bristled at the denunciations because they were unkind and uncharitable and thus unchristian, even while we believed there was real truth in it—and there is of course some truth in it which we must not lose. And from this point we made the best response we could with ABC campaigns: abstain, be faithful and use a condom. But there is more and better on offer now than that. I encourage you to make the journey I am still in the midst of from ABC to a new and more holistic acronym, known as SAVE. Perhaps we can talk more about these initials later. 

But we now know, through the exegesis of Hebrew scholars such as Johanna Stiebert[2] that the links with disease and guilt and sin are not so straightforward as we thought. First of all, where there is clearly retribution in the sending of disease as punishment for sin, we tend to forget that the same context often sees hunger and war as punishment for sin too. Somehow we do not often hear sermons where Iraq is said to be a punishment for sin; or the famine of Darfur is evidence of the sinfulness of the hungry Darfuri people. Nor do we complain that the UN's World Food Programme is undermining morality by feeding people. In such situations we are very astute at not beginning our thinking or our praying by "blaming the victims". But that is where out Christian response started. 

Stiebert makes the point that in passages from Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Jer 14.12; 16.4; Ezek 6.11) God's inflicting or curing of diseases is usually making a point about his mastery over creation rather than simply punishing vice. Moreover, there are all those people afflicted with illness whose sin is not at all clear. From Job to the man who was blind from birth in John, we naturally, but wrongfully, end up asking with the disciples, "Who sinned: this man or his parents?" 

JOHN'S GOSPEL CHAPTER 5 

Before getting to the meat of what I want to reflect upon, which is John chapter 9, let me briefly offer some thoughts about the paralysed man and the pool of Bethsaida in John 5.2-11. And let me do that in the light of a slogan that is both helpful and unhelpful. Some say AIDS is not a moral issue. They say this because Christians have over-moralised HIV. But in time I hope to unpack some of the deeply moral issues that I think HIV and AIDS does uncover. I find John 5 really helpful in stopping the false dichotomy which some create when the church properly want both to preach good news and make a professional medical response to the pandemic. 

In chapter 5 Jesus has two encounters with a sick man. In the first he simply heals him unconditionally. There is no talk of sin at all in the first encounter. The shock value of the story of course is that Jesus healed him on the Sabbath. Jesus treats the conventional morality and religious norms as entirely secondary to the needs of the individual. The paralysed man is denied access to his treatment because he is too weak and isolated to get to the pool. (If Jesus was working for Tearfund of course he would not have taken the easy short cut of just healing the guy, but gone on about creating better access to treatment from the pool of Bethsaida for all the others like him. But what can you expect from a Saviour who did not do any development studies at university?) 

But the healing encounter does not end with the paralysed man who can walk. Later Jesus finds the man at the temple and said to him, "See you have been made well! Do not sin anymore in case something worse happens to you." But we must not conflate what the TWO encounters. John is careful to make clear they are separated by both time and place. To take the second step of talking helpfully about the moral context in which all health and all health care is set in, we must be first unconditional and unwilling to have secondary rules and regulations interfere with our radical self offering. The two encounters when considered in their proper light gives us a more holistic opportunity to think about illness, health-care and morality in a way that is stigma-free. 

JOHN 9

Walking along the disciples saw one who was blind since birth and asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned. He was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him." 

Here we see again how often the scriptures deal with disease or disability as an opportunity to show God's power and mastery over creation. And very helpfully for my purpose Jesus makes explicit that there is not necessarily any connection between sin and illness. He was born blind so that God's work might be revealed. I am sufficiently uneasy about the notion of God inflicting huge suffering for his own glory that I think what we are meant to understand is that this natural, indeed random phenomenon of the man's blindness, can be an occasion for God to manifest his glory through his Son. Our horizon completely changes in this encounter because this man was not just blind, but blind from birth. The affliction is as inexplicable as it is unchangeable. And yet, Jesus does heal. The means of his sight being restored was mud and spit (from things literally at hand—absolutely common: mud, touch and a bodily fluid). 

Now we are on dangerous ground here in a discussion about HIV. And I want to say something that take us right to the edge of this 4 way encounter between the disciples and the blind man; Jesus and the blind man; the Pharisees and the blind man; and the Pharisees and Jesus. Of course the 5th encounter is the most important--between us and the story. For we are meant to gain our sight along with the blind man and the disciples or else lose it with the Pharisees. And it is this role of sight being restored—or vision focussed—that I want us to be aware of. 

Verse 8 gives us plenty to think about in terms of stigma and its effects. There is an identity crisis: The neighbours and those who were used to seeing him as a blind beggar and treating him as such began to ask, "Is this the man who used to sit and beg?" Are we defined by our limitations—by our stigmatising? What happens when the limitations that the neighbours have put on the blind man are no longer there? Is he the same person? 

The next 10 verses are interrogations: How were his eyes opened? He and his parents are interrogated 4 times. Three times the formerly blind man gives the same account. But still, trapped in their dynamic of stigmatising, they insist he was born entirely of sin and in v 34 they finally expel him from the religious community. Thus Jesus then finds the man for whom something even worse than blindness has come to him: the stigma of exclusion, of excommunication. Even after being healed, something worse than the illness can be handed down from the neighbours and hierarchy to this man. I doubt his parents are going to the synagogue either. So the whole family system breaks down. 

And yet Jesus finds the formerly blind man—who at this point must be as bewildered as a man can be—and puts his new sight literally and metaphorically to the test. Jesus asks, do you believe in the Son of Man? And the man replies, "And who is he, Sir, that I may believe in him? And Jesus says, "You have seen him and he is the one who is speaking to you." And he replies, "Lord I believe." And he began worshipping him. (38) 

But the political implication of this and the political encounter comes next in verse 39: Jesus says, "I came into the world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." How scary is that!? There is nothing that limits your field of vision more than thinking that all that there is to see is what you can see in front of you.

So at this point let us change gears and consider another paradigm—one that does not give rise to stigma and exclusion. The paradigm shift required at this point is, if we were writing a slogan: STOP HEALING AIDS WITH THE CHURCH AND START HEALING THE CHURCH WITH AIDS![3] 

If we take John 9 seriously, as programmatic for the church, then we want to start out as blind and end up with sight and not like the Pharisees to start with sight and end up blind when Jesus comes. To do this we have to unlearn all those things we think we know about the AIDS pandemic, the bible and the Church. We must unlearn who we think is HIV+, and why, and what we think about them. For those who are infected by the virus and affected by its impact are not objects of pity or fear, as if we are somehow normal and they are the distant "other". We must learn from that great Roman Catholic healer Fr Jean Vanier, and from Kay Warren's own testimony, whose approach is to let the afflicted open us up to our own woundedness and incompleteness and our need for redemption rather than their need. When the afflicted open us up to our own wounds then we can become, as Henri Nouwen describes it, wounded healers.

For most who are HIV+ any illness is as much a social, economic and political construct as it is an immunological one. The virus is transmitted from person to person, but with drugs to treat the viral agents, progression of the disease too often comes from a lack political will in the nations of the world to make drugs available to poor people. To people who lack nutrition; who lack nurses; who lack governments who give a damn about them; and who lack churches who give a damn about governments not giving a damn. 

And what complicates the response even further is an international community who is so anxious about the church preaching in the midst of a crisis that it balks at doing business with us. And the nightmare effect of all this is local Christian groups like the Mothers' Union in Zimbabwe, and all across Africa, who want to visit the sick and offer better care even where there is little hope of treatment, but can't get the equipment or training needed to make the small but crucial differences they can. So the despair spirals and the division deepens. The UK government and UN AIDS organisations speak about the unique local and global reach of the church to stand in solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS, but it is they now who are doing too little and too late to both support the church and call it to account. 

But that must not stop the church from getting its own global and local house in order and to keen knocking on their doors. So what are our sins as a church from which we could be healed by HIV and AIDS? The gravest sin is of course the apathy of the indolent rich. Lazarus and Dives have something to tell us here. Forgetting to remember the vulnerable in our midst, those outside our national gates. Failing to live as the body of Christ in which we are all members one of another. 

The second sin that we as a church have to pray for repentance around is patriarchy. How on earth have we allowed women, who bear the brunt of poverty and family breakdown, to yet again to bear the brunt of this disease? And what are we not seeing or saying as a church about a masculinity that holds women in contempt? And what are we not saying about a femininity that thinks misogyny is fine with God. It is not. 

Too often it is a male hierarchy (lay and ordained) whose cumulative effect of insensitivity, ignorance, cowardice and detachment (take your pick!) that reinforces and perpetuates what has to be seen as hatred of women. How else could so much death and suffering be visited upon them and predatory and bullying male sexual behaviour go unchecked in countries with millions and millions of confessing Christians? Yet what do we hear on Sundays about this latent hatred? The sound of silence. Worse than the sound of silence, we hear the sound of the gospel preached with vehement irrelevance! 

And I am sad to say that I have been party to it. I have seen sentences in speeches I and others have tried to include written out of scripts before my very eyes for fear of the muck-rakers who, with the Pharisees, constantly look to the Archbishop of Canterbury to see how they might destroy people like him. Thank God we have leadership that is as deep as it is devout and steadfast from Rowan Williams in our world. If you want to read some of the most beautiful theological reflections on eroticism and sexuality, you must read his essay, The Body's Grace.[4] 

CONCLUSION: TOUCH AND THE BODY'S GRACE

I want to wind down with a quote from Timothy Radcliffe, OP, a celibate Dominican priest, who also writes beautifully on theology, sex and the politics of our bodies. In a recently published essay, after some long quotes from Archbishop Rowan, Radcliffe writes this:

"If a good sexual relationship overcomes the distortions of power, reaching for equality and mutuality, then [that sexual relationship] is a preaching of the gospel to the society in which we live. [A good sexual relationship] challenges the unjust structures of every society. All too often relationships merely echo the patterns of dominance of the society. If society is ruled by men, then men will probably rule in the home and in the bed. So a good sexual ethic offers a challenge that is implicitly political. If we are formed in our homes for reciprocity, then we will not be at home in political structures that oppress.[5] 

Instead of asking who sinned—this man or his parents—let us look turn the church and the world upside down and see it as a means of our healing. Dare we say that the most serious challenges to the evangelisation of the world are contained in the drivers of the disease: poverty, patriarchy; and our inability to talk honestly about sex and sexuality? If we can galvanise our families, our congregations and nations; indeed communities of nations to follow where we lead; to resource where we serve; and to think as we pray then poverty and patriarchy and drug-pushers and prostitution can begin to be rolled back from our own cities and those of the developing world. 

In those who are HIV+ we see only ourselves. Instead of projecting our own fears and fantasies on them we have the chance of having our own theological health restored by them. We should see the ministry of the church in a world that is HIV+ as the best chance we have of being healed of our sinful patriarchy, our crushing wealth, our hatred of women, our fear of the sick, our denial of death, and our fear of sex and our own inadequacy, impotence and vulnerability. 

As Japhet Ndlovu observes from Zambia, "Jesus brought an image of holiness defined not by its distance from what is considered to be unclean, but by its proximity to it. Into a world so divided and separated within itself came Jesus, who, with the touch of a hand, restored human community."[6] 

How we perceive the body of Christ which is HIV + is how we perceive ourselves. If we are to love our neighbour as our self, and our neighbour, both literally and metaphorically, is affected by HIV and AIDS, this can only bring us back to our selves: to our sexual selves; to our moral selves; and to our gendered selves. It can only bring us back to our own bodily vulnerability and grace. You too will be ill; you too will grow old and dependent; you too will need medication that you may or may not be able to afford. You too will have your body taken from you. If we do not see ourselves as affected by HIV and our churches as responding to it, then it is not those who HIV positive who are liable to Christ's judgement as some first thought 20 years ago. Alas for us who live complacently with AIDS and patriarchy today: for we think we see, and yet are blind. 


[1] Bible study given at POSITIVE: the UK Church Conference on HIV, sponsored by Tearfund and Bracknell Family Church, England 15 March 2008

[2]Musa Dube, Towards an HIV/AIDS-Sensitive Curriculum, WCC Geneva 2003 p.10

[3] "Does the Hebrew Bible Have Anything to Tell Us about HIV/AIDS", in M W Dube, HIV/AIDS and the Curriculum, WCC Publications, Geneva 2003p 24

[4]I first heard this call to action from ANRELA+ in March 2006 at a consultation "Lifting the Veil: Islam, Christianity and the Challenge of AIDS", St George's House, Windsor Castle, England.

[5]Rowan Williams, The Body's Grace, written in 1989 for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and available at http://www.igreens.org.uk/bodys_grace.htm

[6]Timothy Radcliffe, OP, 'This is my body given for you' in Christians and Sexuality in the Time of AIDS, Continuum, Cerf 2007 p63

[7]Ndlovu as quoted in as quoted in Patterson, AIDS related Stigma,WCC 2007 p 2

Bottlenecks and Drip-feeds 08/04/06

Report - CINDI (Children in Distress network) conference in Pietermaritzburg, 3 – 8 April 2006 ( Renate Cochrane)
Recipients: LUCSA HIV/AIDS desk and LUCSA funded projects

“Bottlenecks and Drip-feeds” is the title of the keynote address given by Geoff Foster.(Save the children UK) at the recent CINDI conference. The failure of funds reaching those children who are most in need was an overriding concern expressed at the conference. Financial resources for orphan programs have increased substantially but funds often get stuck in organizational bottlenecks and don’t reach those who are affected. Of one dollar spent from donor funds, less than 5 cents translate into direct help. 

An extensive study commissioned by ‘Save the Children’ has found very few examples of effective mechanisms for channeling resources to community-level organizations responding to the needs of vulnerable children. During the conference, appeals went out to all organizations, especially FBOs (faith based organizations) that are rooted in the communities, to engage in advocacy work to overcome the bottleneck.

Drip-feed and technical support

The ideal model for efficient funding is “drip feeding”. A constant, never ceasing trickle (i.e. moderate funds) into the ground-stream of community level interventions. It was recommended to increase technical support for CBOs (Community Based Organizations and FBOs). Eg assist with financial administration and writing of funding proposals/ drawing up of budgets / coaching in language proficiency to enable people in the community to write simple reports in English.

How do we hold public officials accountable?

A number of high ranking government representatives were present and the atmosphere was at times very tense when they tried to justify the inertia of government departments. In some areas in SA, it may take up to two years to obtain a birth certificate. Yvonne Spain, CINDI director, spoke publicly: “The lack of service delivery by the Department of Home affairs is criminal” .

Social workers are often non-existent. (No figures were given for vacancies of social workers posts - figures for vacant nursing posts are 37 000.)

KZN (Kwa Zulu/ Natal) seems one of the worst hit provinces regarding the scarcity of social workers. A Lutheran project shared the case of a youth headed household:

Case study

The eldest sister is 21 and has already given birth to 3 children. She uses the child support grants (R 190 per child/per month) for her 3 biological children to support her 4 younger siblings. The project care workers have been to Social Services in Pietermaritzburg regularly during the past year – without success. The young “sister-mother” has not been visited by a social worker and cannot access state support for her younger siblings.

Ironically, it seems easier in KZN, to receive a disability grant (R 780 a month) for HIV+ status. So far, the grant has not been taken away from people who are on ARVs. This is quite different from other provinces where parents on ARVs are suddenly without income as the disability grant has stopped.

Integrated care projects

Another focus was the integrated model of care projects. Repeated appeals came from key note speakers and small groups presenters: “Don’t separate treatment education,

counseling, orphan care and home based care. Send your orphan care workers to treatment literacy workshops and involve TAC (Treatment Action Campaign) activists in orphan care. Don’t forget those children who stay at home to nurse their sick parents. Encourage parents to seek medical help and explain, for example, that TB is not AIDS and can be cured. Prevent orphan-hood by means of treatment support and education for sick parents.”

The move towards integration was indeed heartening for me as LUCSA has promoted the integrated care model. I was employed by LUCSA to add the treatment component to LAAP ( LUCSA AIDS Action Plan.)

Below I list some innovative “good practice” models in the hope that project leaders might be inspired. It is my deepest regret that I have not tried harder to get sponsorships for some coordinators of LUCSA supported projects to attend the conference.

Child counseling at schools.

Every orphan care worker knows the desperate plea by teachers: “can you please assist us with our traumatized children? We have children crying all day, others have become very aggressive and hit their class mates, others are totally withdrawn and don’t talk at all…..”

A group of teachers in Pietermaritzburg developed the “school counseling project”. 2 counselors are allocated to a school. They are members of the community who are being trained by professionals. The requirement is standard 10 and the positions are advertised. How do they choose the candidates? After a short interview the candidates are asked to play with the children for 30 minutes. Professional child-psychologists observe the play-time and make their choice. The school counselors receive a stipend and on-going training. (Funded by the Save the Children/UK)

“Adopt an orphaned household” - family sponsor model:

Thandanani, a Pietermaritzburg based organization, introduced this model in order to be less dependent on big donor funds. They approached churches in affluent parts of KZN and asked if any Christian families are prepared to sponsor orphaned households. They gave a profile of specific households and spelt out the needs.

Example of a household in need: The oldest sister is 17 years old and she has to look after 3 younger siblings. She does not receive any grant as she is under 21. There are no relatives. The needs were listed (school fees/uniforms/basic clothing/basic food) and amounted to about R 500 a month. Two affluent families have taken on sponsorship for 3 years. It will take about 3 years for the eldest sister to start the process of applying for a government foster grant (Legal age is 25 but social workers can motivate for a grant from 21 years onwards)

Thandanani care workers administer the sponsor funds and organize food parcels and clothing. 

The coordinator shared the story of the youth headed household profiled above: After one month of Thandanani assistance, relatives appeared from nowhere and offered to take the children.(!) The Thandanani staff was adamant that is was not in the best interest of the children to move away and they protected the household. The children were traumatized when their relatives showed sudden interest in material benefits. 

The other positive factor of the household-support was the reaction of the community. The children were no longer seen as potential thieves and the “orphan-stigma” was visibly reduced. Some orphans were even invited to visit their neighbours which has never happened before.

The children know the first names of the sponsor family but they don’t know the address and the entire correspondence and financial responsibility is carried by the Thandanani office.

Psycho-social support for abused “grant children”

A rough estimate is that more than 50% of orphaned children are well cared for by grand-parents and relatives (SA). We find, however, a disturbing level of abuse among the less well cared for which is often related to the South African welfare grant system. Relatives buy hire-purchase goods with the grant money and the distressed children feel totally unloved, often drop out from school and develop symptoms of emotional neglect. Care workers need to continue monitoring foster-care families. Youth-headed households also need counseling and guidance as many young “sibling parents” don’t have the maturity to be heads of households. We heard of a youth-headed household where the 23 year old sister received a full foster care grant for 4 younger siblings (over R 2 000 monthly) . Suddenly she had a good income but she ran away as she could not cope with the responsibilities. She received the monthly grant from the Department of Social Development after one single visit by a social worker who never returned. She never received advice or guidance not to mention counseling. Such cases are a sad illustration of collapsing government support structures.

Children’s villages

Community based care is the best. There is, however, a romantic perception among donors overseas that the African extended family will absorb children as long as they receive some material support. The extended African family is often a myth. Relatives do exist but they live in one-room shacks in the city. An increasing number of orphaned children are abandoned with no-one to care for them. For these children temporary shelters (sort of “sanctuaries”) need to be established. The ideal model is a children’s village within an existing community. This can mean a cluster of houses in the same street or simple buildings on church premises. Even better, to renovate empty buildings on mission stations. 

Abandoned children will be taken in until a suitable foster-care placement is found. The foster-care families will be monitored by care workers and the contact with the children’s village will remain allowing fostered children to return to play with their friends. 

In South Africa such villages can be registered as children’s homes (takes ca 2 years). Registration means that the state pays R 1 500 per child/per month. For a home with 50 placements this secures a monthly income of R 75 000. The village must have good credentials and financial records to get registered. The involvement of a church, assisting with monitoring is always a bonus. Government will not promote children’s homes, as too many such homes have become ruthless business enterprises. The churches, however, could play a big role in preventing such exploitation for personal gain. A faith based children’s village has a better chance to get registered.

Memory work and resilience in times of AIDS

This is the title of the book that introduces the memory box program. The director of the program is Prof Philippe Denis, a theologian and church historian who recognized the need of orphaned children to develop a sense of personal history, identity and resilience . They will have a better chance of reaching mature adulthood if they have been guided along the path of remembering their parents. Memory work is healing work for traumatized children. The book has a full training manual and is highly recommended for those who want to learn more about bereavement counseling for children. (Cluster publications 2005 cluster@futurenet.co.za ) Some organizations focus so much on treatment and preparing for the second chance in life that the memory box work has been forgotten. It was felt that this is a deep loss and the suggestion was mooted to promote the concept of a “life box” which should start when you become a parent.

The memory box is such an invaluable concept and tool to lead our children to stable adulthood that it should not be replaced by only focusing on treatment.

Creativity as a vehicle of hope

Religion/Media/Creativity were presented together in an afternoon program.

The film “a child is a child” was shown and few eyes remained dry. The film is accompanied by music and portrays orphaned children who develop coping mechanisms.

(To order as DVD/or video: info@vulekaproductions.co.za )

The discussion centered around methods of dealing with pain. How can the church be involved and bring back hope?

A group of traumatized women have started a creativity project, making quilts and appliqués with motives (often symbolically) depicting their traumas.

PACSA (Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness) started self-help groups based on models developed by the healing and memory institute.

Churches can support Soul City staff who want to start active lobbying for introducing a children’s channel in TV. Many children spend hours in front of TV (often operated by a car battery). The South African TV programs have deteriorated to a very deplorable level and some programs can be categorised as “media child abuse.”

CINDI dolls

A touching (figuratively and literally) instrument of solace is the “CINDI doll”. The smiling doll is used in trauma counseling for abused children but the soft and cuddly knitted dolls are comforting for orphaned and lonely children as well. Many children living in deprived conditions have NOTHING that belongs to them. The doll (for boys and girls) is given to them by care workers and this companion will be with them during the night, cuddled in their arms. They can share sorrows and sadness with this friend. The CINDI doll is an idea that can be taken up by church partnerships overseas. Many people overseas would like to do something more than sending money. To knit hundreds (thousands and the millions we need to match the number of orphaned children) of dolls would be a meaningful contribution to raise awareness of the plight of children in distress in Southern Africa.

Volunteers or care workers?

All projects start with volunteers to visit homes and schools and take care of vulnerable children. Most of these volunteers are unemployed ( mainly women) who struggle to feed their own families. All volunteers hope to receive some income at some stage. Donors are reluctant to give funds for stipends (not to mention salaries). The conference heard many voices deploring the fact that those daily workers who are the back-bone of the projects don’t receive any remuneration. Some volunteers receive soap in their care-kit to be used to wash the patients but they have no cash to buy soap for themselves. Projects are encouraged to advocate for fair stipends for care workers.

Counseling and “off-loading” for care workers.

Ideally, care workers should have weekly meetings with trained professionals to unload and de-stress. Burn out and “compassion fatigue” are on the increase. Professional psychologists are, unfortunately, not always available. Project managers are thus encouraged to structure de-briefing sessions even without professional guidance. A good method is to sit around a circle and let everyone share her/his story. No interruptions, no questions asked during the sharing in the circle. Afterwards a limited amount of time can be given to respond to each other. This method only needs a minimally skilled facilitator who can “rotate” with every session. It is a self-help group for care workers and a weekly (or forth-nightly) session is highly recommended.

Support group for caregivers/guardians

AIDS workers are aware of the vital importance of support groups for PWAs. In the same way, support groups for caregivers can play a crucial role to strengthen coping skills. The method can be the same as above: sharing your burden by speaking in a “safe space” without interruptions or judgment. Some care projects make monthly support group meetings for caregivers compulsory for receiving food parcels. Traveling costs will be re-funded. Resource persons from the community can be invited.

Donor funding – “show us your latest financial statement?”

The bottle-neck “plug” plagues many community based organizations. There is the first hurdle of submitting a well formulated funding proposal but the catch 22 situation is the lack of financial statements at the beginning of a project. For example, a group of concerned women want to start a feeding scheme for children they found scavenging for food at the municipal dumping grounds. They apply to small businesses or companies for initial funds but they cannot show a financial statement as they have not had any monetary donations yet. Examples were given of CBO groups that had to close soup kitchens for hungry children because they did not receive any technical guidance (how to write a funding proposal in English) nor financial assistance. Mission instituted churches have a great advantage in this respect as most “main-line” churches have an HIV/AIDS desk and donor partners overseas. The best results have been achieved in projects where church and community work together and technical support is given.

Prevention

A surprising number of speakers stressed the fact that more programs must be geared towards boys if we want to make inroads in prevention. For example, boys learn that a well-brought up girl will “fight and say no” if she wants sex. It is not good enough to teach girls that they have a right to say “no” – we also need programs that reach boys.

Fatherhood project

Our society is in desperate need of positive role models of fathers who show active interest in the lives of their children. The amount of child abuse has lead to a state of paranoia in our society. The speaker presenting the fatherhood project gave an example of a father who walked down the street holding the hand of his 5 year old daughter when some residents notified the police as they suspected him to be a child abuser. The media does not play the role it should: our society needs to see many more caring fathers in TV series and adverts.

Way forward for LUCSA?

Recommendations:

· The method of giving seed-grants to emerging projects is an excellent way to overcome the bottleneck by assisting projects on the ground. Once the project-team can submit their first financial statements, avenues will open up for further “drip-feed” funding. Ongoing technical support (e.g. basic book-keeping and administration) is necessary.
· LUCSA to continue promoting the integrated care projects. (treatment knowledge and support / VCT / OVC care/ youth programs geared at prevention.)
· The best orphan-care model is where a care worker is responsible for ca 6 to 10 orphaned households (with guardian) in the community. Child/youth headed households to have 1 care worker for 1 or 2 households. These care workers, however, should receive stipends. LUCSA to lobby for fair stipends and communicate this need with LWF and other donor agencies overseas.
· Ongoing TRAINING for care workers. This is absolutely essential and must not be neglected in the face of the acute crisis. Professional child counseling trainers need to be identified and recommended to projects.
· Monitoring and mentoring of care workers. The best organization in South Africa is NACCW. National Association of Child Care Workers. Networking will be highly beneficial.
· There is a great need for ‘drop-in’ centres (after-school care centres for OVCs) and children’s villages. LUCSA member churches, particularly those with empty buildings on previous mission stations, are encouraged to look at the option of opening up “sanctuaries” for orphans and vulnerable children.
· To encourage projects in member churches to form partnerships with CBOs and African Indigenous Churches in order to reach more children in need.
· To look at the feasibility of “online language companions” (native speakers in US or UK). Funding proposals have to be written in English. Many project coordinators are very capable managers but not proficient in English. Lutheran companion synods in the United States could be approached to assist with such a program.
· LUCSA to identify best resources re: videos/DVDs and books/manuals on child counseling.
· To set up a system of “resources sponsorship” where project coordinators can submit a motivational letter requesting resources like educational videos and manuals/books. (eg the video: “a child is a child” / “yesterday”)
 

Strenthening Role of Churches in Combatting HIV-AIDS

(Vatican Radio) An international conference on stepping up the fight against HIV-AIDS opened in Rome on Tuesday, with participants focused on how to strengthen the role of faith based organisations. Jointly organised by UNAIDS and the global Catholic aid and development confederation Caritas Internationalis, the meeting will review progress over the past three decades and pinpoint ways of expanding access to life saving anti-AIDS treatment. The most recent report from UNAIDS sets a goal of having 15 million people on anti-retroviral therapy by 2015, while also looking longer term towards universal access to treatment and the elimination of AIDS-related deaths.

Among those helping to sponsor the conference is the U.S embassy to the Holy See. In opening remarks to participants Ambassador Ken Hackett spoke of the continuing role of the Catholic Church in providing prevention, treatment, care and counseling programmes in countries around the world. Philippa Hitchen caught up with him to find out more about the goals of the two day meeting…..

Listen: RealAudioMP3

Ambassador Hackett says: “The hope is that there’ll be a road map to come out of this, a kind of renewal process going on….a lot of progress has been made in combatting the disease, but now it’s time to reinvigorate and review and lay a clear plan forward for what it is that faith based organisations, the churches, governments and other agencies can do together for the future to eliminate this disease….

He adds that: “In the beginning, 25 years ago, governments just didn’t see a role for faith based organisations, it was ignorance….they didn’t know the nuns were running that hospital where the big Land Rover couldn’t even get down the road, and it was in that hospital that the nuns were able to reach out to the people…..so now there is a recognition that you have to look holistically at this problem, you have to reach it from a lot of different angles and the collaboration between governments and faith based institutions, effectively supported, must be the future.”

Die Zuma-Hofsaak. 07/05/06

Hoe word die vigsbekampingsveldtog deur Zuma se optrede en uitsprake beïnvloed? 

Artikel deur Nelis du Toit, Verskyn onder die titel "Zuma wen... Wie't verloor?" in die Kerkbode van 26 Mei 2006 

Die opspraakwekkende hofsaak waarin die voormalige Adjunk-president Jacob Zuma van verkragting aangekla en vrygespreek is, is verby. Waarskynlik sal die stof rondom hierdie hofsaak binnekort gaan lê, maar die impak of effek daarvan sal nog lank by ons bly spook. 

Dit is daarom nodig dat ons wel nog oor hierdie gebeure nadink. Wat gedurende en rondom die hofsaak gebeur het, het nie in isolasie plaasgevind nie. Dit weerspieël iets van ons samelewing waarin dit afgespeel het. En nog belangriker: dit het 'n groot invloed op ons samelewing. 

Ten spyte van die regter se verklarings en ten spyte van Jacob Zuma se verskonings is daar 'n paar indrukke wat tydens die hofsaak geskep is en wat ‘n mens steeds bybly. Die volgende paar vrae leef voort in my hart:

Hoe veilig is vroue in ons gemeenskap?

Terwyl die hofsaak onderweg was, was daar al 'n gees van teleurgesteldheid by persone wat vroue en kwesbare mense se regte ter harte neem, te bespeur. Hierdie teleurgesteldheid hou verband met die wyse waarop Khwezi se menswaardigheid deur lede van die publiek aangetas is. Die indruk het bestaan dat die regsproses en veral die media ook hiertoe bygedra het. Ten spyte van die versekering wat die regter in sy uitspraak gegee het dat sy uitspraak nie die posisie van vroue voor die reg benadeel nie, bly die indruk dat vroue dit nou eerder moeiliker as makliker sal vind om 'n klag van verkragting te lê – veral as die verkragter bekend is aan hulle. Sonder om te veralgemeen, wil ek beweer dat as vroue na hierdie hofsaak minder veilig voel, sal daar ook mans wees wat na hierdie hofsaak die indruk het dat hulle nie so maklik tot verantwoording geroep kan word as hulle vroue verkrag nie.

Wanneer is seks verkragting? En is net verkragting 'n oortreding?

Na die afgelope hofsaak is ek opnuut onder die indruk dat die reg oor verkragting praat slegs wanneer duidelike “bakens” verby gesteek is. En hierdie definisie of duidelike bakens maak veral nie genoegsame voorsiening vir verkragting binne ‘n verhouding of deur iemand wat aan jou bekend is nie.   Dit wil voorkom asof  die afloop van hierdie saak die “bakens” van wanneer seks verkragting is, verplaas het. Na hierdie saak sal verkragting waarskynlik nie makliker bewys kan word nie.

Dit is jammer dat die regsproses in hierdie geval alleen oor verkragting as sodanig gehandel het.    Dat die regter vir Jacb Zuma op 'n persoonlike vlak oor immorele optrede geroskam het, was nie genoeg om die ernstige aard van hierdie optrede aan te spreek nie.

Word mense met mag bevoordeel bo mense sonder mag?

My indruk is dat die wyse waarop die hofsaak in nuusmedia rapporteer is en al die gebeure daar rondom verwarring oor die waardigheid van die vrou veroorsaak het, wat onder andere insluit:

Hoe mens ook al daarna kyk – daar was 'n mags-wanbalans die dag toe Jacob Zuma met Khwezi seks gehad het. Die indruk wat die hofsaak by my gelaat het, is dat Khwezi “uitgelewer word” aan “die beste regsspan wat geld kan koop” en dat sy hierdeur verder ontmagtig is. Ek verstaan dat 'n getuie se geloofwaardigheid getoets moet word, maar die wyse waarop Khwezi in die openbaar blootgestel is, het my ontstel. Die manier waarop mense buite die hof Khwezi se eer aangetas het, grens vir my aan verkragting van haar persoon en ek wonder steeds: waarom het dit so min openbare reaksie ontlok?

Die gevolg van al hierdie gebeure is dat mense – veral vroue wat in hulle verhoudinge 'n posisie van onmag beleef – ontmoedig word om geweld binne verhoudinge en spesifiek verkragting aan te meld. Dit dui na my mening op 'n onrusbarende bevestiging van onderdrukkende houdings en praktyke in ons gemeenskap. Vir 'n gemeenskap wat reeds worstel met persepsies dat manlikheid bewys word deur 'n vrou te onderwerp, is dit nie goeie nuus nie.

Die verhaal van MIV en vigs in Suider-Afrika bevestig dat baie vroue onderdruk word en dat seks dikwels binne hierdie konteks plaasvind. Té veel getroude vroue wat aan hulle mans getrou is, word met MIV geïnfekteer! Té veel jong meisies verklaar dat hulle eerste seksuele ondervinding teen hulle sin plaasgevind het! Té veel jong dames wat in 'n seksuele verhouding is, verklaar dat hulle bang is om “nee” te sê wanneer hulle maat seks wil hê!

Moes soveel verkeerde MIV inligting die wêreld ingestuur word?

Die vals inligting aangaande MIV en vigs en veilige seks wat gedurende die hofsaak uitgespreek is en by wyse van mediaberigte die wêreld ingestuur is, maak my baie onrustig. Enigeen wat erns maak met persepsies in gemeenskappe weet dat vals inligting rondom MIV en vigs soos 'n veldbrand versprei en dat korrekte en feitelike inligting met moeite aanvaar word. Dit sal veel meer as 'n paar regstellings en verskonings van Jacob Zuma vra om hierdie wanvoorstellings uit te wis. Pogings om korrekte inligting oor MIV en vigs aan mense deur te gee, is vir maande, indien nie jare nie, teruggesit.

Hoe het dit alles die stryd teen MIV en vigs beïnvloed?

My indruk is dat die belangrikheid van die vigspandemie deur die hofsaak en die gebeure daaromheen onderspeel is. Pogings om die samelewing te sensitiseer ten opsigte van moreel verantwoordelike en gesonde seksuele lewenswaardes, keuses en praktyke sowel as die uitdra van betroubare inligting, is ernstig benadeel.

Die koninkryk van God kry onder andere gestalte in gemeenskappe waar weerlose mense veilig is, waar seks uitdrukking van wedersydse liefdestrou is, waar reg en geregtigheid gesamentlik gesoek word en waar die belangrikheid van waarheid geag word.

Binne hierdie konteks het kerke en spesifiek kerkleiers die verantwoordelikheid vir die handhawing en uitbouing van 'n Bybelsverantwoorde morele en sedelike kultuur in Suid-Afrika. Dit sluit in dat alle mans en vroue (oud en jonk) en in die besonder alle lidmate opgeroep moet word om:

Towards a Theology of AIDS

 

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Act Today: Three Simple Actions to Ask World Leaders to Stop AIDS, TB and Malaria 10/04/2013

Since 2002, the Global Fund has provided AIDS treatment for 4.2 million people, anti-tuberculosis (TB) treatment for 9.7 million people and 310 million insecticide treated nets for the prevention of malaria. To build on these results, the Fund is looking to world leaders to commit at least 15 billion USD to its work over the period 2014-2016.

Published by Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance

A fully funded Global Fund is critical if we are to see the three diseases of AIDS, TB and malaria defeated within our lifetime. And strong advocacy ahead of a Pledging Conference in September 2013 could be a matter of life or death for many of the people who will benefit from the work of the Fund over the next few years.

A first opportunity for advocacy presents itself this week as governments gather in Brussels on 9-10 April for preparatory meetings on the replenishment process, and we, as faith communities, are invited to support the ‘Call to Action’ issued by global civil society in support of the replenishment process.

Therefore, after reading this email, why not take these three simple actions to remind world leaders that you - along with many others around the world - are committed to addressing AIDS, TB and malaria… and that you expect them to do their part too:

For past Action Alerts and Bulletins, see www.e-alliance.ch/en/s/news/