Scots hear African church challenge to HIV-AIDS stigma

By staff writers
July 14, 2011

Civic bodies and churches in Scotland and beyond have been challenged by a priest living with HIV to face up to the stigma and prejudice surrounding AIDS.

The call came in exchanges with Canon Gideon Byamugisha, an Anglican priest from Uganda who has been openly speaking about living with HIV since 1992, at a meeting in Edinburgh entitled 'Scotland is Positive' on Saturday 10 July.

The African church leader has also been a long-standing, brave and outspoken critic of attempts to introduce a controversial anti-homosexuality law in his home country.

The gathering was the first in a series of 'conversations' that will for, part of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace taking place in the Scottish capital from 6-29 August 2011. The Festival will also include performance, special events, workshops, and activities for family and children.

In 1992, Byamugisha became the first African religious leader openly to declare his HIV-positive status. He has since devoted his life to an AIDS ministry. This has taken him to over 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and many other parts of the world.

Hosted by David Johnson, director of Waverley Care, 'Scotland is Positive' was an opportunity to hear how personal experience can stand up to attitudes that stigmatise and discriminate against people living with HIV in Scotland and across the world. It was also a challenge to policy makers within the political arena.

Gideon Byamugisha is driven by a passion for the dignity and rights of all people, especially those marginalised, stigmatised and discriminated against because of their HIV-positive status.

He has played leading roles in the Church of Uganda's AIDS programme, the Uganda AIDS Commission, World Vision International, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, special conferences of the United Nations, ICMDA HIV initiative, and in founding the African Network of Religious Leaders living with or Affected by HIV and AIDS. There is now also an equivalent international network.

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