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Archbishop's video message for World AIDS Day 2010

Posted on: December 1, 2010 9:16 AM
Related Categories: England

In his message for 2010 World AIDS Day, the Archbishop of Canterbury celebrates the good news that can be found in examples of local responses to HIV and the impact of global action reflected in the latest statistics.

Having witnessed at first hand the work being done at a local level with his visits this year to the Mildmay Hospital in Uganda and the Arunima Hospice in India, Dr Williams said:

"People are learning how to live with HIV, they're learning about its transmission.  They're learning to see it as something they can understand, and therefore something they can make sense of, and live with positively."

Dr Williams also praises those living with HIV who have dedicated their lives to helping others – working to overcome the fear and stigma and demonstrating how, with access to treatment, people can live well with HIV. The Archbishop also reminds us that although there may be much to celebrate this year, there is still a good deal of work to be done to protect the very vulnerable, and in particular, women and children:

 "They're still particularly vulnerable in contexts where the understanding of the transmission of HIV is still developing. And so long as that vulnerability is there, we mustn't relax our own vigilance, our own understanding and care for the situation."

Finally he urges us to remain focused on this issue, despite the temptation to let it fall from our priorities during this time of global financial upheaval, saying:

"...as we give thanks for what's been achieved, it's all the more important that we renew our commitment, that we don't let this slip down the list of our priorities, that we remember that the future of millions of the world's children lies in our hands in cooperating with those who help and serve them who enable them to grow up and be citizens, human beings, people who truly live."

According to UNAIDS' 2010 Global Report, at the end of 2009 there were an estimated 33.3 million people living with HIV, 2.6 million were newly infected and 1.8 million died from AIDS-related causes. The estimated figures for new infections and deaths are nearly 20% lower than those estimated in 1999.  However, rates of infection outpace access to treatment by 2 to 1. 10 million people are still waiting for treatment. UNAIDS notes that, while the number of children born with HIV has decreased by 24% over the past five years, 370,000 children were newly infected in 2009 due to lack of services to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

While the number of new HIV infections is being stabilised or reversed in at least 56 countries, commitment and momentum must be maintained to ensure universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

  • Mildmay Hospital in Uganda provides care and treatment for children and adults living with HIV, as well as offering training for health professionals and others involved in HIV care and support - www.mildmay.org
  • Arunima Hospice is a project run by the Diocese of Calcutta, Church of North India, to provide care and support for adults and children living with HIV - www.cnisynod.org

The full transcript for the Archbishop's message can be found below:

"It's very important on World AIDS Day to celebrate the good news that there is. That good news may simply be something at the personal and the local level, at the Mildmay hospital in Uganda, for example, with their care of young people. It may also be something that we can detect in some of the statistics.  So there is progress. People are learning how to live with HIV, they're learning about its transmission.  They're learning to see it as something they can understand, and therefore something they can make sense of, and live with positively.

In all this, a crucial role is played by those who are actually living with HIV, and who are prepared to talk about it, and to help others talk about it, face it, and live with it.  But of course, women and children are still vulnerable.  They're still particularly vulnerable in contexts where the understanding of the transmission of HIV is still developing. And so long as that vulnerability is there, we mustn't relax our own vigilance, our own understanding and care for the situation.

At present we're in the middle of a global financial challenge of unprecedented proportions in recent history.  The temptation is to step back from some of this attention and care, and it's a temptation that we have to resist.  These people still need our care, still need our attention, and above all they still need to be taken seriously, to be allowed to have the responsibility that they can exercise in caring for one another, in raising awareness, in changing the whole situation. 

And another bit of good news, of course, is the increasing levels of cooperation between people of different faiths in this task.  Like so many problems of our present age, the spread of HIV is not an issue which any one faith community, any more than one nation can deal with on its own.  So the good stories of collaboration between the faiths, the good stories of statistical shift, and actual reduction in rates of infection, the good stories above all of people living with HIV, who demonstrate that it really is living, and so challenge stigma and exclusion - all of this is part of what we can reasonably celebrate at this time of the year.

But as we celebrate, as we give thanks for what's been achieved, it's all the more important that we renew our commitment, that we don't let this slip down the list of our priorities, that we remember that the future of millions of the world's children lies in our hands in cooperating with those who help and serve them who enable them to grow up and be citizens, human beings, people who truly live."