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A Message from the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) on Worlds AIDS Day 2018 In Solidarity for an HIV and AIDS-free World!

   

Today, in solidarity, we join our brothers and sisters throughout the world to commemorate women, men and children who have died as a result of HIV and AIDS and to express our closeness and support to those among us who are infected and affected by the disease. As Jesuits Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), through African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN), we continue to empower men, women, youth and children living with HIV to live in dignity and explore their potential to live a full life. Furthermore, we congratulate those brave men and women, youth and children who have come out openly about their HIV status and, thus, serve as ambassadors to encourage their respective communities to test for HIV and live a responsible life. This we all should emulate and do to help reach out to 9.4 million people around the world who don’t know their HIV status. We should all start from where we are!


The world is now home to 36.9 million people living with HIV. Approximately 22 million people in the world have been put on treatment compared to 15 million people and more than 800,000 children who are still waiting to receive treatment. The situation is dire in our continent. 69,65 % of the people living with HIV in the world live in sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS Report, 2018), which recorded 800,000 new HIV infections in 2017 (Global HIV and AIDS Statistics). Most people on our continent have not taken the initiative to voluntary get tested for HIV to know their status and make responsible decisions. Majority of these people include our youth. And with a bulging youth population, Africa risks increased new HIV infections amongst this category – our future generation.


I commend AJAN’s effort and commitment to reach out to the youth. With support from our collaborators, we are now reaching more youth across Africa through AJAN HIV and AIDS Prevention Programme (AHAPPY). We continue to mentor our young generation, to encourage them to voluntary get tested for HIV, to seek treatment for those infected and encourage personal responsibility in their everyday decisions. I further recognize partnerships and collaborations which have been made and strengthened across Africa to promote access to HIV prevention, treatment and holistic care. Service Yezu Mwiza in Burundi, Chikuni Home Based Care in Zambia, Centre Maisha and Foyer Louis de Gonzague in DRC, Integral Youth Development in Zimbabwe, Centre Esperance Loyola in Togo, Centre d’Information, d’Education et d’Ecoute in Central African Republic, Association Les Bénévoles de l’Espérance and Association Solidarité, Vie et Santé in Burkina Faso, Centre Social Arrupe in Madagascar, Holy Family Health Clubs in Liberia, Centre Hospitalier et Universitaire Le Bon Samaritain in Chad, Nyumbani Home, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Upendo and Uzima in Kenya, and many others which I have not mentioned are examples of our efforts which demonstrate our commitment and contribution to the fight against HIV and AIDS pandemic.


In July this year, key stakeholders on HIV and AIDS around the world met at the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands. One of the many observations made at the conference is that the world is far from achieving targets set by UNAIDS to end AIDS pandemic by 2030. UNAIDS estimated the possibility to diagnose 90% of people living with HIV, to put on ART 90 % of the people diagnosed with HIV and to suppress the virus of people on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) by 90 % by 2020. Most regions in the world are far from reaching these targets.


Our continent continues to struggle with evident disparities in access to HIV treatment. Key populations such as the poor and most vulnerable who lack resources to access treatment, the marginalized, the elderly, disabled, women, children, youth, migrants and refugees are significantly left out. The political instability of some African countries doesn’t make the situation any better. Cases of gender discrimination and violence are recorded almost on a daily basis. Human rights instruments are disrespected. We must join our hands wherever we are in our smallest of actions to end these kinds of injustice. May “…our hunger and thirst for justice impel us to walk in truth and that our defense maybe clear, firm and passionate for the sake of dignity of human life.” (Letter of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to the People of God, 20.08.2018).


World leaders affirm their commitments to address HIV and AIDS by expanding HIV diagnosis and treatment and ending Tuberculosis (UN General Assembly, October 2018). We should not be left behind. It is time now to realign our HIV and AIDS efforts in Africa. We must collaborate more, form working partnerships and invest more on research and gather scientific evidence on the impact of our work and responses, while addressing HIV and AIDS in our continent. We should strengthen our efforts especially in HIV prevention amongst our young population who “are troubled and seized by so many fears” (Message of the Holy Father Pope Francis for the 33rd World Youth Day). With new resolve, let us guide by educating our young people about the dangers of HIV and, as a result, be empowered to live a responsible and upright life.


We should never underscore the power of spiritual nourishment and counseling which we offer in our places of worship. They remain key platforms to demonstrate love, compassion and care for our brothers and sisters infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. We place faith, justice, and solidarity with the poor and the excluded as central elements of our mission and works. We will continue to show compassion and care for the people whom we serve, especially the most vulnerable, marginalized and those carrying the burden of HIV and AIDS in their lives.


May God give us the grace to bear faithful witness to the good news before those who have a preferential claim on God’s love, mercy and compassion.

Yours in Christ’s Mission

Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator SJ

President,

Jesuits Conference of Africa and Madagascar 

Conférence des Jésuites d'Afrique et Madagascar

Conferência dos Jesutas de África e Madagáscar

Africama House, 260 Dagoretti Road-Karen

P.O. Box 1540-00502, Nairobi, Kenya