The Archbishop of Canterbury reflects on the progress and the issues of a response to HIV/AIDS especially in Africa. How can the church be an agent of wellness?
Recently I had the privilege of discussing the issue of HIV/AIDS with the Archbishops of Southern Africa and Burundi, and the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé. It was encouraging hearing how much has been achieved in the global response to HIV/AIDS, yet sobering to see what challenges remain.
Last year there were 35 million people living with HIV, according to UNAIDS. New infections are down by 33% since 2001 and new infections in children down by 52%. Millions more people can now access treatment so they can live full and active lives. As a result, AIDS-related deaths have reduced by 29% since 2005. This is a hugely significant advance. It makes clear that we have the means and must maintain the commitment, as a global community, to ensure that no one is left behind in the progress on prevention and treatment.
In my discussion with the Archbishops, we reflected on three vital aspects of the work on HIV/AIDS. One is the importance of equal access to treatment for all in need, including in the poorest and most marginalised communities. That is absolutely at the heart of any Christian understanding and response to HIV/AIDS.
Second is the huge danger posed by gender-based sexual violence, and particularly in areas of conflict. This is something which the Great Lakes region has experienced, with terrible suffering and consequences. But it is a very real and often unrecognised outrage in almost every part of the world.
The third matter is perhaps the most sensitive. This is the importance of ensuring that no groups – and here I’m clearly thinking about LGTB groups – face discrimination which creates barriers to accessing testing and treatment.
A video featuring Archbishop Justin in conversation with the Archbishops of Southern Africa and Burundi about HIV/AIDS will be published shortly on this page.