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Africans propose ways to respond to AIDS crisis

Posted on: January 9, 2001 11:00 AM
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[Episcopal Life] Throughout Africa, Anglican leaders are calling for greater openness in their churches about the AIDS virus and methods to help prevent the spread of infection.

In Uganda, An Anglican priest who announced his HIV-positive status five years ago said the church needs to spread the message that condoms are a means to prevent infection, not to encourage or permit our immorality. 'AIDS is a complex issue ,' said the Rev. Gedion Byamugisha. 'It takes time to change.'

In Tanzania, after a recent conference on HIV and AIDS, Anglican bishops issued a statement of alarm, citing the epidemic proportions of the virus, especially among young people. The country has 1.3 million people with living with HIV or AIDS, the bishop said, with a total of 24.5 million cases throughout the sub-Saharan region. They said they recognise the need to increase response and pledged to take 'a more active role in education, prevention and care'.

In New York last month, Dr. Peter Okaalet, an Anglican medical doctor who heads the eastern and southern African region for Nairobi-based MAP International, met with the Episcopal Church mission personnel to discuss his agency's work, which includes peace and reconciliation issues, as well as health care.

Through training, producing printed material and conferences, the agency is helping churches and Christians health organizations to respond to the crises. ' To be associated with MAP is to be involved in saving kids' lives, said Okaalet, who more than five years ago determined that being only a 'medical man' in an age of AIDS was not enough. It led him to embark on a five-year programme of theological training.

Now, in response to requests from Anglican primates and Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, Okaalet is providing them with scientific data and accurate information about HIV-AIDS, as well as medicines and public health education for millions in poverty.