The prayer, offered in a hybrid format, was attended by WCC and UNAIDS staff, as well as by concerned people across the globe.
In a message, Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, WCC programme director for Public Witness and Diakonia, reflected that the latest UNAIDS report is shocking and revealing. “Over the last two years, the multiple crises the world has been facing have devastated people living with and affected by HIV, and the global response to the AIDS pandemic has been knocked off course,” he said. “Progress has been faltering, resources have been shrinking, and inequalities have been widening.”
Observing Thursdays in Black, Mtata also addressed how HIV is impacting women and girls. “Every two minutes in 2021, an adolescent girl or young woman acquired HIV,” he said. “The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted essential HIV treatment and prevention services, putting millions of girls out of school, and showed sharp rises in teenage pregnancies and gender-based violence.”
He also noted that three-quarters of all people living with HIV have access to antiretroviral therapy—but approximately 10 million people do not. “We have work to do!” he urged. “Inequalities in accessing prevention, care, and treatment are most pronounced among children, women, and the vulnerable key affected populations.”
HIV is very much with us, Mtata added. “From the beginning of the pandemic more than 40 years ago, we have lost approximately 40 million of our loved ones,” he said. “People can be healed from HIV and AIDS.”
Mtata concluded by asking if we are listening to the cries of those with HIV and AIDS. “Are we opening spaces for them to speak for themselves?” he asked. “Do we embrace them?”
He urged churches to act against stigma. “If we do, we can become agents of life in the face of this deadly pandemic,” he said.