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HIV and AIDS - WCC asks for universal access to treatment, welcome for positive people

HIV and AIDS - WCC asks for universal access to treatment, welcome for positive people

Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) HIV and AIDS Campaign 2005-2008 "Keep the Promise"

06 September 2006

Every person living with HIV and AIDS should have access to the treatments made available by medical science and churches must advocate for this to happen, said the World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee in a statement adopted at a meeting that ends today. The statement also challenges churches to a greater commitment in fighting the pandemic and welcoming positive people into their communities.

"Faith-based communities have a responsibility to advocate that antiretroviral treatments as well as treatment for other opportunistic infections be made available and accessible to all" who need them, the WCC central committee statement affirms. "For the first time ever, the world possesses the means to reverse the global epidemic," it notes.

The leadership of the churches is encouraged "to exercise their role as advocates for just policies and to hold governments accountable for their promises". In particular, the statement further "calls on the G8 governments to adhere to their promises of funding and response to reach universal access to treatment, care and support by 2010".

The private sector, especially pharmaceutical companies, are requested "to invest in needed research" and "to ensure that their drugs for treating HIV are available at low prices in low- and middle-income countries".

Precious members of the community

The WCC central committee acknowledges that "while the churches have been on the front line of care and support for people affected by the pandemic, many of us have also been complicit in stigmatizing and marginalizing people living with HIV and AIDS".

It therefore encourages churches "to continue to play a critical role in overcoming the pandemic through responses that are tempered by compassion and qualified by competence". Among those, it mentions "providing comprehensive and evidence-based information on prevention of HIV transmission," as well as "ensuring access to voluntary and confidential counseling and testing".

The WCC central committee also calls on churches and Christians "to promote greater and more meaningful involvement and participation of people living with HIV and AIDS," as well as "the acceptance by the churches of persons living with HIV and AIDS". They are "precious members of the community," the statement affirms.

Ongoing reflection

The statement further recognizes that there are "aspects of the church response to HIV and AIDS about which there is continual disagreement".

Therefore, while acknowledging the "lifesaving responsibility of all to protect themselves through practising abstinence outside of marriage, fidelity in marriage and a healthy way of life including rejection of drug abuse", it also calls for "ongoing ecumenical reflection" on "the response to those who, contrary to the church witness, engage in high-risk sexual activity or drug use, including the appropriate means of prevention".

The WCC central committee urgeschurches to promote "deeper theological and ethical reflection on HIV and AIDS," as well as "open and inclusive discussions on issues related to sexuality, gender-based violence and intravenous drug use to empower individuals and communities to be less vulnerable to HIV".

AIDS, which causes 8000 deaths a day and has left 13 million children orphaned, "remains a serious threat to humanity". The fact that many are still "ill-informed" and thus "not equipped to prevent this eminently preventable disease" makes it "obligatory to engage in and work to overcome the viruses of ignorance, silence and fear".

The "Statement on churches' compassionate response to HIV and AIDS" is the third issued by the WCC central committee in its history. The first one was adopted in 1986 and the second in 1996.

The central committee "Statement on churches' compassionate response to HIV and AIDS" is available at:

www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/central-committee/geneva-2006/reports-and-documents/first-report-of-the-public-issues-committee.html

More information on the WCC Central Committee meeting is available at:

www.oikoumene.org/en/events-sections/cc2006.html

Information on WCC work on HIV/AIDS is available at:

wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/mission/hiv-aids-e.html

Information on the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA) is available at:

wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/mission/ehaia-e.html