Archbishop's World AIDS Day message on supporting expectant mothers

By staff writers
December 1, 2009

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has released a 2009 World Aids Day video, in which he speaks with the Rev Patricia Sawo, a church leader and mother from Kenya, about her experiences of living with HIV.

The video highlights the plight of expectant mothers who are HIV positive and the support they need to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies.

Ms Sawo, HIV Ambassador for Tearfund, the Christian relief and development agency which co-produced the video, calls for the eradication of the stigma and denial associated with the condition: "The things we are silent about, the things we never talk about - they are the things that really affect us".

In the video the Archbishop challenges the church to "[p]rovide space for people to face themselves, to be themselves, and to cope with their future."

Dr Williams adds: "We know that the transmission from mother to child is something that can be dealt with. We need to encourage all our governments to keep up their commitment to making this medical help available, and to giving that hope, which we know is possible."

Ms Sawo echoes this: "What makes me hopeful is the Church, and the love that a woman can receive in the Church. Hoping in faith that all things are possible, but at the same time making it a reality by having the space in the Church where women can grow to be themselves, and be able to face all kinds of life challenges." The video also highlights the role of men, of fathers, in supporting mothers to access support and vital services."

According to the United Nations, there are 2.1 million children up to the age of 15 who are living with HIV. In 2008, 430,000 children were newly infected with HIV, 90 per cent of them through mother-to-child transmission. In low and middle income countries, only 45 per cent of mothers living with HIV are able to access comprehensive services that would help to protect their babies from infection.

Dr Williams also called for churches to help break the "silence" on HIV infection which contributes to its transmission. But critics say he has continued to maintain the Church's own silence over the Ugandan Anti-Homosexual Bill, which would criminalise gay people - making them subject to imprisonment, persecution and the death penalty.

Also on Ekklesia: 'Williams: Church must break its silence (sometimes)' -

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