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Statement from Archbishop of Cape Town on World AIDS Day

Posted on: December 1, 2005 10:51 AM
Related Categories: Southern Africa

More effective leadership to fight AIDS desperately needed as second wave hits NGOs and faith-based organizations says Anglican Archbishop.

According to the United Nations 2004 Global Report on the AIDS epidemic, Southern Africa remains the worst affected sub region in the world. South Africa itself continues to have the highest number of people living with HIV (most of them women) in the world. Latest data suggests that prevalence levels are still increasing in all age groups, except for pregnant women over 40 years of age.

The disease is set to spread even further as infection rates continue to rise in countries where poverty, poor health care systems and limited resources for prevention and care fuel the spread of the virus.

The HIV epidemic in South Africa is on the brink of large-scale conversion from HIV-infection to AIDS illness and death. With little in its arsenal by way of discursive tools and consensus, empirical data, policies, treatment options flexible funding and the like, the NGO community is beginning to experience this second wave of impact, both internally and in the communities in which they work. This, of course, has wide implications for civil society, but also for our economy with high absenteeism and low energy on the job impacting on the business community.

In response to this pandemic, the Anglican Church has introduced youth health and sexual education programmes; training clergy, lay leaders and youth leaders to educate communities about abstinence, HIV prevention, reproductive and sexual health, and life and parenting skills; and increasing the number of couples participating in pre-marriage counselling.

We are also stimulating broad community discourse on stigma reduction, healthy norms, avoidance of risk behaviours, and the importance of HIV/AIDS testing through theology developed to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS; assessment of the churchs involvement in voluntary counselling and testing services and implementing appropriate models; and increasing effective linkages with other faith and community-based organisations as well as government agencies and private sector organizations.

We are doing our utmost to reinforce the protective influence of parents and other primary caregivers through education, training and support and we are addressing the sexual coercion and exploitation of vulnerable groups, particularly young women, through building awareness of the issue.

As we continue to strive for a generation without AIDS we are also expanding our churchs system of care and support for orphans and vulnerable children and adolescents affected by HIV through the introduction of the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programme (OVC), which promotes the development of partnerships with other faith-based organisations, governmental agencies and NGOs.

We believe all humans are equal. We are brothers and sisters. Thus, we should treat each other with mutual care and respect regardless of social status, faith, gender or life style. We are striving to break the silence and emphasise that God does not discriminate between those who are HIV positive and those who are HIV negative. The fight against stigma is the Anglican Churchs main focus this AIDS day.

Together with others, we continue to struggle to provide genuine concern, guidance and support for survival and well being of the future generation.

But despite the work of NGOs, faith communities and other civil society organizations, one vital ingredient is missing. The goal of addressing AIDS and improving health requires a broad, multi-sectoral response to the disease and its social and economic causes. The need to ensure adequate leadership and management is crucial and it is here that there is still a grievous lack.

We desperately need our government leadership to develop a national strategic framework for prevention, care and treatment that gives the vision and direction needed by all actors across the health system.

We need leadership that recognises and promotes the building of coalitions and maintains stakeholders commitment to the agreed objectives and strategies.

We need leadership that promotes greater collaboration between government, the corporate world, civil society, NGOs and faith-based organizations so that we can dovetail strategies and programmes for the greater benefits of those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.

We need leadership that leads to the formulation and enforcement of a system of rules and incentives for all providers to ensure quality care, whether in the public or the private sector.

Finally, we need leadership that provides an oversight of the impact of the programme across the whole health system. This also means ongoing evaluation systems for determining whether policies are being carried out, what is on course and what is not, and responding as needed.

Without true leadership we will continue to strive to make an impact on the lives of the HIV and AIDSaffected individuals within our communities, but many will continue to fall through the cracks. Unless government becomes fully involved in the battle against AIDS, the stigma surrounding the disease will continue, the death toll will increase, more children will be left without care, our economy will suffer and the memory, identity and - most of all - hopes of our communities will be irreparably damaged.

For more information, please contact Penny Lorimer, Media Liaison for Archbishop Ndungane, on +27 82 894-1522