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Church leaders to get more involved in fighting HIV/AIDS
Saturday 7 May 2005
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AFRICA: Church leaders to get more involved in fighting HIV/AIDS

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

NAIROBI, 14 June (PLUSNEWS) - African church leaders said on Friday that they would make available in church-supported health facilities, drugs used to lessen the severity of HIV/AIDS infection and become more involved in fighting the stigmatisation of those living with the virus.

"We will make treatment available at church-supported mission hospitals, clinics, dispensaries and health posts," the Rt Rev Nyansanko Ni-Nku, the president of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), told a news conference in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, following a three-day meeting of 200 Protestant church leaders from 39 African countries.

The meeting discussed how Christian congregations can respond more effectively to the AIDS pandemic in the continent.

Ni-Nku said that the church would "facilitate the availability" of Anti-Retroviral (ARVs) treatment. "Most of the people in Africa are among the poorest of the poor [and] live on about a dollar a day, so, however cheap the ARVs become, for some people they will still remain very difficult to access," he said. "Our goal would be, if we really want to save the population of Africa, that they [ARVs] should be given freely."

He added: "Given that congregational members of the AACC member churches amount to a conservative estimate of 120 million Christians in Africa, we resolve that every congregation should be a centre for health, healing and treatment. We will make our congregations and health facilities havens of compassion."

Discrimination against those living with the virus, Ni-Nku said, would be considered a sin by the AACC.

Asked whether the church leaders had agreed on the use of condoms in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, given that some Christian demoninations were opposed to condoms as a means of combating the spread of the disease, he said: "The conference was not hostile to the use of condoms."

Condom use, he added, would, for example, be the only way of preserving a family in a situation where either the husband or the wife was infected with the HIV virus.

"We recognise that condoms is one way of prevention, although the emphasis was of course on the moral issues of abstinence and fidelity," the Cameroon church leader said. "Do not forget that churches act in consonance with the [UN] World Health Organisation, which recommends this as one way of prevention."

The AACC secretary general, the Rev Dr Mvume Dandala, said the church leaders, who met in Nairobi from 8 June to 10 June, expressed a strong sense of urgency concerning HIV/AIDS.

"There was a very real sense in which the church leaders were saying: If Africa does not awaken now, this disease, this pandemic, has the capacity to annihilate the African populations," Dandala said. "The church leaders reflected on the truth that, historically, there parts of the world where populations were annihilated by disease," he added.

Ni-Nku told reporters that Africa had become the "epicentre" of HIV/AIDS not because its people were more promiscuous than people in other parts of the world, but because poverty made them more vulnerable to the scourge.

"As church leaders and policy makers, we will ensure that church support systems and church resources are effectively used to redress the continent's desperate plight," he said.

Sub-Saharan Africa is by far the region worst affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world. In 2003, an estimated 26.6 million Africans were living with HIV, including 3.2 million who became infected that year, according to UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).


Recent AFRICA Reports
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 232, 6 May 2005,  6/May/05
Low marks on report card for global HIV/AIDS commitments ,  4/May/05
Project empowers rural communities to shape own HIV/AIDS programmes,  3/May/05
Clinic tackles urgent need for AIDS/TB treatment,  2/May/05
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 231, 29 April 2005,  29/Apr/05
AIDS Media Center
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
VIH Internet
Sida Info Services

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