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Address both the spread and stigma of HIV, says Primate

by Rachel Harden

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has urged Christians to be at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS. In a statement released for World AIDS Day (last Friday), Dr Williams said that Christians were compelled by God’s self-offering in the face of suffering to do what they could to treat the sick and to educate themselves and others so as to avoid further spread of the infection.

“This pandemic has reached alarming proportions, affecting and infecting many who have not the knowledge or the personal autonomy to avoid transmission. It is now women and young people who face the highest rates of infection; the most vulnerable who bear the heaviest burden,” Dr Williams said.

Last year, an estimated 4.1 million people became infected, and an estimated 2.8 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses.

“No Church has found it easy to confront the realities of this HIV crisis. We have struggled to balance the moral tensions inherent in preventing disease whilst maintaining sexual discipline,” Dr Williams said.

The disease was not stopped “by our best intentions or even by marriage”: “each person must take responsibility for knowing their HIV status and making sure that others who may be affected also know their status.”

The Archbishop also said that assuming that HIV was something that infected someone else was the first step towards allowing it to confer a stigma. He praised church leaders who had “courageously brought their HIV-positive status to the attention of their communities”. He also called on the Global Fund and other donors to recognise “the enormous contribution that could be made in fighting this pandemic with our ecumenical partners”.

Dr Williams highlighted the AIDS conference, to be held in South Africa next March, organised by the Anglican Communion.

On Sunday, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, defended his Church’s position on the use of condoms.

Referring to comments made by the Prime Minister on Friday that the Roman Catholic Church should “face up to reality” and drop its ban in order to fight AIDS effectively, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said that the money should be used to provide more drugs and medicines.

“I speak to bishops in Africa, and they told me that their dioceses are flooded with condoms, and they say it has meant more promiscuity and more AIDS,” the Cardinal said on Andrew Marr’s BBC1 programme Sunday AM. But he said that Pope Benedict XVI had ordered a review of the Church’s position on using a condom within marriage where one of the partners was infected.

The Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Benjamin Nzimbi, marked World AIDS Day by calling for an end to the indiscriminate distribution of condoms. He said that providing them without thought contradicted Christian principles of self-control.

Pics: AP/EMPICS

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