At the recent International AIDS Conference, ecumenical participants focused on the need to intensify churches’ efforts to support women trapped in societies marred with sexual and gender-based violence. There was also an emphasis on reducing stigma attached to HIV in communities.
The AIDS 2012 conference recently concluded in Washington D.C., United States, on 27 July, having taken the theme “Turning the Tide Together”.
“HIV and AIDS have challenged our conventional theologies and have made us face our own prejudices in the light of the Lord’s transforming love,” said Dr Susan Parry, regional coordinator for southern Africa with the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA), a project of the World Council of Churches.
Parry participated in the ecumenical pre-conference, part of the Faith & AIDS forum coordinated by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.
Parry stressed that the current times are a “kairos moment for the church” that can bring “transforming love to everyone, regardless of HIV status, colour, culture, creed, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”
“We know what to do, we know what works and what makes a difference. Thus the success achieved remains the most compelling argument for the world, in particular the church, to do even more to achieve an AIDS–free generation,” she added.
Speaking on the challenges faced by the programmes run by the churches to address HIV-related issues, Parry said that “we do not speak of ‘exit strategies’ from those in need. We walk with them in a journey of solidarity and accompaniment for as long as it takes.”
The Rev Dr Nyambura Njoroge, coordinator for EHAIA, addressed the critical aspects related to stigma attached to the HIV and AIDS. She said that through EHAIA initiatives churches have “broken the silence and dissipated fears surrounding issues related to sexuality in all its diversity.”
She stated in her presentation that “promoting critical awareness against sexual and gender-based violence, promoting gender justice, transformative masculinities and femininities and pastoral accompaniment of people living with HIV” are crucial for the churches.