In marking World AIDS Day, the Anglican Alliance celebrates this year’s global theme: “Communities make the difference”.
As UNAIDS states: “The commemoration of World AIDS Day, which will take place on 1 December 2019, is an important opportunity to recognize the essential role that communities have played and continue to play in the AIDS response at the international, national and local levels. Communities contribute to the AIDS response in many different ways. Their leadership and advocacy ensure that the response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the centre and leaving no one behind.”
Revd Rachel Carnegie, Anglican Alliance Executive Director, said: “Faith communities have profound potential to be at the heart of the AIDS response. Over many years there have been outstanding examples of faith leaders and their members mobilising communities, educating on HIV, challenging stigma and discrimination, advocating for testing, treatment and support, and standing together with those living with HIV, recognising each as made in the image of God.”
“This deep engagement must be sustained,” Rachel added, “with hope based on what has already been achieved and with commitment to continue the shared action to end AIDS. With nearly 40 million people now living with HIV around the world, we celebrate that 25 million are accessing antiretroviral treatment, while recognising the 15 million people as yet unreached and those at risk of infection who must not be left behind.”
Last year, 1.7 million people were infected with HIV, and more than 770,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses. About 6,000 young women aged 15–24 are infected with HIV each week. World AIDS Day comes during our time of marking of the 16 Days Against Gender-based Violence. Those experiencing sexual violence are more at risk of HIV infection.
In her address launching the report ‘Power to the People’, UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said: “The first step is to address inequality and the injustices that fuel the HIV epidemic. AIDS hurts people who live in poverty… We have to address inequality. It cannot be right that some people get treatment and live long lives, while others cannot access health care and die. We must fight inequality, lift all people up out of poverty. We need to provide more services—education, health, social protection. That is how we will end AIDS.”
The World Council of Churches has developed resources to mark World AIDS Day. The liturgy includes this prayer: “We pray for those living with or affected by HIV and for their loved ones. We pray to receive strength and courage to fight injustice, inequalities and stigma and discrimination within our faith communities.”
The winner of the Church Mission Society’s photo competition: Mission is…Breaking the Silence by Rebekka Stredwick. The photo shows a young women facing stigma but also liberated by talking about her HIV diagnosis with the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust. Photo credit: Rebekka Stredwick.