Los Angeles Times Examines Network of African Religious Leaders That Aims To Raise HIV/AIDS Awareness, Address Issue in Churches
The Los Angeles Times on Monday examined a "growing network" of mostly male HIV-positive clergy in Africa who are "putting their lives, careers and sometimes their faith on the line by speaking out" to help "bust stereotypes" and raise HIV/AIDS awareness. Churches in Africa "remain one of the biggest obstacles" to promoting safer-sex practices, and many still condemn condom use as an HIV prevention method, the Times reports. However, some HIV-positive religious leaders -- such as Gideon Byamugisha, a clergy member in the Anglican Church in Uganda, and the Rev. Gibson Mwadime, an Anglican vicar in southern Kenya -- are "forc[ing] some of Africa's biggest churches to confront a pandemic that many prefer to ignore," according to the Times. Byamugisha, who was one of the first clerics in Africa to announce his status publicly in the mid-1990s, co-founded the African Network of Religious Leaders Living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The network includes more than 1,300 members in 11 countries and represents various faiths, including Roman Catholicism, Islam and evangelical Christianity. In addition, although some Anglican clergy members have acknowledged that they "grappled with unsettling questions," about the disease, the church now supports the use of condoms as an HIV prevention method because of the efforts of Byamugisha and others, according to the Times. "I've come to understand that this disease is not from God. It's not God's plan that people die at 8 years old. Or 12. Or 30," Byamugisha said, adding, "God gives us the knowledge and skills sometimes to prevent or postpone death. He's done his part. The question is, have we done ours?" (Sanders, Los Angeles Times, 4/24).
Churches Must Focus Efforts To Stem HIV/AIDS, SACC Says
The South African Council of Churches on Friday called on churches to work together to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS and overcome church doctrines that might seek to obscure the reality of the pandemic, the SAPA/Mail & Guardian reports. "If you consider that the Centre for Actuarial Research estimates that more than 2.5 million people would become infected by 2010, then you certainly must accept that we have a crisis on our hands," the Rev. Teboho Klaas, director of SACC's health and HIV unit, said, adding that SACC is hopeful that new research will generate treatments to fight the disease. SACC -- along with the Treatment Action Campaign, the South African Democratic Teachers' Union and the Rural AIDS and Development Action Research Programme -- backed a march for HIV prevention which was held in Cape Town on Sunday (SAPA/Mail & Guardian, 4/22).