KENYA: Faith Groups Must Lead AIDS Fight, Politician Says. 19/06/07
Kenya's health minister, Charity Ngilu, has called on faith groups in Africa to take a leading role in responding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the continent.
"It is my conviction that to harness the faith communities in the response to HIV and AIDS will always be an advantage," Ngilu said on June 19, while opening a meeting in Nairobi of an African church-linked network on HIV and AIDS.
The Kenyan politician told her audience that faith groups were unique in that in almost every place in Africa there was a mosque, church, temple or meeting hall, or even a sacred tree that served the community.
"What is less said is that these places of worship and the people who serve them are to a very large degree not only stable but also self sustaining," Ngilu explained to the Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa, which is meeting in Nairobi until June 21 to discuss a plan of action to deal with the pandemic.
The network was set up in 2002 as a joint undertaking of African churches, Northern churches and agencies, and the World Council of Churches.
"We believe we can only manage to fix the damage of HIV/AIDS if we work together. We cannot compete because there is nothing to compete about. We can only join hands to destroy the virus," said the Rev. Nyambura Njoroge, the network's program coordinator.
The ecumenical grouping is intended to enable churches in Africa gain access to the information, training, networks and funding they need to deal with HIV/AIDS in their communities.
The network also promotes the understanding that to stigmatize and discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS is sinful and against the will of God.
Anglican Bishop Albert D. Gomez of Guinea told the Nairobi meeting that it was not the first time humanity had faced such huge epidemics, and he was optimistic about the outcome.
"I am sure what we have been doing, what we will do, and the development of science and technology will help humanity to defeat HIV/AIDS. That is my conviction," Gomez said.
The Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa meeting is taking place at a time when U.N. statistics for 2005 show that 64 percent of all people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.