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.
+ John ONAIYEKAN
Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria
President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM)
World AIDS Day, 1 December 2006