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Africa: AIDS, Frontline Voices
Dec 1, 2003 (031201)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Leaders of the All Africa Conference of Churches, meeting in
Cameroon last week, pledged to "undertake prophetic advocacy until
anti-retrovirals are available to all who need them; have zero
tolerance for stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive
persons, and do whatever possible to eliminate the isolation,
rejection, fear and oppression of the infected and affected in the
community." Hundreds of the delegates responded to a call to come
forward for testing for HIV.
This issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two reports from that
meeting, as well as a World AIDS Day statement from the Pan African
Treatment Action Movement (PATAM). These voices from groups on the
frontlines against the pandemic represent a new upsurge in public
advocacy for action. Indeed World AIDS Day 2003 marks a sharp
increase in the number of statements, events, and media specials
across the globe (see the lengthy tally at http://www.unaids.org,
itself only a small sampling).
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin today includes key excerpts from the
latest announcement of new commitments by UNAIDS and the World Health
Organization to bring treatment to 3 million people by the end of
2005. Rich countries, however, have still not committed the
resources that would be necessary to make this happen. The latest
report from UNAIDS on the status of the pandemic is available at
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"Relieve the Burden on Our Grandparents, Brothers, Sisters -
Provide Anti-Retroviral Therapy to All in Need!"
Pan-African Treatment Access Movement (PATAM)
Press release 1 December 2003
On this World Aids Day, the Pan-African Treatment Access Treatment
Movement (PATAM), a grassroots social movement for access to
anti-retroviral therapy and other essential medicines extends a
hand to our grandparents, brothers, sisters, friends and many
others in our communities who relentlessly bear the brunt of the
epidemic with unending fortitude. They are the ones whose
attention does not stray away from those who lie immobile, as
their bodies slowly succumb to the wiles of the HI virus. They are
the young who are forced to stop attending school so that they can
look after their even younger brothers and sisters because mum and
dad have long died of Aids. We salute you!
In assessing the state of HIV/AIDS in the world towards the end of
2003, a joint report by the UNAIDS and World Health Programme (WHO)
castes a rather grim picture noting that:
"Sub-Saharan Africa remains by far the region worst-affected by the
HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2003, an estimated 26.6 million people in
this region were living with HIV, including the 3.2 million who
became infected during the past year. AIDS killed approximately
2.3 million people in 2003."
It is indeed obvious that the pandemic is wreaking havoc in our
communities as is evidenced in the anguish too harrowing to wish on
our worst enemies as day after day funerals claim the young and
most promising in our villages, in our townships and even in the
exclusive neighbourhoods of those among us who have ýmade it."
We do not wish though to dwell on these images but prefer to take
note of the many encouraging gains made largely due to the
tireless efforts. We need to focus our attention on renewed
commitment to ensure that those who need anti-retroviral therapy
receive it without prejudice.
In the past half-year we have seen actions that present much hope
to those living with HIV. We highlight a few:
Recognition that Intellectual Property Rights Undermine Public
Days before the official opening of the World Trade OrganisationÝs
(WT0) Fifth Ministerial Conference in Cancun, Mexico a compromise
decision was reached by trade ministers stipulating that member
states of the WTO with no manufacturing capacity facing public
health crises could import generic medicines manufactured in a
secondary country where the medicines are patented.The agreement
also recognises that economies of scale are critical in driving
down prices so therefore permits countries within a regional trade
agreement to export medicines produced locally or imported under
a compulsory license to other members, even if the quantity of
exports outweighs the quantity of medicines imported or produced
for local demand.
Though there are numerous problems lurking in the detail of the
agreement such as onerous conditions that have be to be imposed
before importation will be permitted, this is a small victory in
a larger struggle. We take note of CanadaÝs brave step as the
first wealthy country to give effect to this decision by
introducing legislation to amend its patent act to enable it to
export generic medicines to poor countries. We strongly urge
Canada to move faster to allow the newly passed legislation to be
immediately translated into provision of generic medications for
all who need them.
Reduction in Drug prices
As a result of enormous pressure by activists, major pharmaceutical
companies have reduced drug prices to levels close to those charged
by generic drug manufacturers.
Similarly, towards the end of October, the Clinton Foundation
announced it had brokered a landmark deal with four generic drug
companies that would bring down the cost of triple therapy drug
combinations to under $140 per person per year in African and
While these changes are welcome, we are not put pressure to ensure
Increased Political Will
Across the continent there have been encouraging actions by
governments and others in positions of influence that suggest that
the pandemic is receiving the serious attention it demands.
Treatment is now generally accepted as a requisite component in a
comprehensive response to HIV/Aids. We especially flag the recent
announcement by the South African government that it had accepted
an operational plan for the rollout of anti-retroviral medicines,
which is envisaged will be one of the largest public sector
programmes in the world by 2010. This is commendable on two
counts. First South Africa has the highest infection rates in the
world with 5.3 million people estimated to be living with HIV.
Secondly, as a one of the most influential countries on the
continent this sends an excellent signal to other African nations.
Mushrooming of Grassroots Social Movements
Over the last year individuals from all walks of life but
especially those most infected and affected by the pandemic have
come together to form a formidable force advocating for treatment
access. The diversity of membership consisting of activists from
trade unions, groups of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWAs),
community-based organisations, faith-based formations and many
more is a clear indicator that Aids is now more than ever
We hold no illusion that the struggle ahead is difficult, but
failure is not an option. We will overcome. We ask our allies
across the world to stand steadfast with us as they do now and
invite all who understand that the struggle for treatment access
is fundamentally one about the sanctity of life and therefore one
about a vision for a more equitable and just world to join us.
A luta continua!
For Further Information Contact the PATAM Steering Group
Lubna El Tabei Tel: +20-10-669-3346 Egypt
Delme Cupido Tel: +264-61-223-356 Namibia
Othoman Mellouk Tel: +212-66-45-28-11 Morocco
Moyo Matilda Tel: +263-11-702-205 Zimbabwe
James Kamau Tel: +254-722-886-694 Kenya
Grace Muro Tel: + 255-22-211-7088 Tanzania
Djueche Sylanie Laurie Tel: +237-775-6993 Cameroon
Ambroise Mamona Tel: +242-213-036 Congo Brazzaville
Ako Cyriaque Tel: +225-235-04927 Cote d'Ivoire
Rolake Nwagwu Tel: +234-1-773-1457 Nigeria
Africa's Churches On the March Against HIV/AIDS
November 26, 2003
AACC Media Team: (011) 237 966 3059 or 3063
[From the Worldwide Faith News archives http://www.wfn.org
For more information on the All Africa Conference of Churches
see also http://www.aacc-ceta.org]
November 26, 2003, Yaounde, Cameroon -- On a day in which emotions
ran the gamut from gloom through compassion to hope and
celebration, delegates to the 8th Assembly of the All Africa
Conference of Churches today (Nov. 26) devoted their attention to
the pandemic of HIV/AIDS that is sweeping the continent.
The statistics are bad enough - 20 million people already dead, 14
million children orphaned, 14,000 new infections every day, 2.8
million children under the age of 15 infected in sub-Saharan
In many places on the continent, these incomprehensible figures are
made worse by the stigma and discrimination that are experienced
by people with faces and names who have disclosed their
The Assembly heard from pastors and priests who are living with the
virus in churches that sometimes still think of HIV/AIDS as God's
punishment for sin; from a young Cameroonian man whose disclosure
that he was sero- positive meant the end of his relationship with
his girlfriend, the mother of his child; from a Congolese mother
of five who was ejected from her home and stripped of most of her
possessions by her husband's family, who blamed her for his death.
Others living with the virus told of amazing support from their
church communities and of support groups that were organizing for
mutual care and advocacy. The Assembly received with joy stories
of people who were living full lives despite carrying the virus
for over a decade, and of a couple who have been blessed with a
child, despite the father's sero-positive status.
Hope rose when the delegates received news of the partner
organizations committed to working with the African church at
local, national, regional and continental levels who stood ready
to commit human and financial resources to the tasks of behavior
formation and modification, the provision of affordable or free
anti-retrovirals and the support for caregivers of all ages,
especially the aged and very young.
Confidence that, with God on our side, HIV/AIDS can be managed and
will ultimately be defeated found its expression in a candlelight
procession through the streets of Yaounde and the adoption of a
10-point Covenant on HIV/AIDS by the delegates.
Dave Wanless - AACC
African Churches Detail 10-Point Plan for Addressing HIV/AIDS
November 26, 2003
AACC Media Team: (011) 237 966 3059 or 3063
[From the Worldwide Faith News archives http://www.wfn.org]
November 26, 2003, Yaounde, Cameroon - African church leaders from
across the continent prayed, sang and spoke out boldly today (Nov.
26) during a day of reflection on HIV/AIDS and of commitment to
Delegates to the All Africa Conference of Churches 8th Assembly,
meeting here Nov. 22-27, reviewed the dire facts and figures,
heard testimonies from HIV-positive clergy and laity and adopted
a 10-point "covenant" for fighting the pandemic that includes the
demand for affordable HIV/AIDS drugs including anti-retrovirals
for all who need them.
To dramatize the importance of HIV screening, the Assembly offered
free, voluntary on-site testing. More people than expected came
for testing, on-site clinic staff confirmed. 105 of the Assembly's
some 800 participants were tested and, when supplies ran out,
others were given vouchers for the next day.
"As far as we are concerned, this is war," said the Rev. Dr. Mvume
Dandala, General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of
Churches, meeting here in its 8th Assembly Nov. 22-27. "We
declare unequivocally that HIV/AIDS is not the will of God for
Africa we will try with all we have to resist it."
At a candlelight vigil and service Wednesday evening (Nov. 26), he
had strong words for international pharmaceutical companies and
for countries in the northern hemisphere that are falling short in
their support to the Global Fund.
"The church must resist an tendency by the pharmaceutical companies
to see Africa as an open market" for HIV/AIDS drugs because of the
virus' prevalence on the continent, he said. If that's the way
the pharmaceuticals see Africa, Dandala said, "it's a sign of
their moral bankruptcy."
The AACC meets in Assembly every five years or so. The last
Assembly was held in 1997 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The All
Africa Conference of Churches is Africa's most comprehensive
ecumenical organization, with 169 national member denominations
and 27 national ecumenical councils - comprising 120 million
Christians in 39 countries.
For this evening's candlelight vigil, three phalanxes of about
1,000 persons each processed on foot from three downtown Yaounde
intersections to the headquarters of the Federation of Protestant
Churches and Missions in Cameroon, the nation's ecumenical
council. AACC Assembly delegates came by bus from their meeting
HIV/AIDS an "Insidious Terrorist," Minister of Health Says
Addresses included words from Cameroon's Minister of Health, Urbain
Olanguena Owono, who praised the churches' comprehensive commitment
to fighting HIV/AIDS, to working against stigmatization of people
with HIV/AIDS, and to extending care and compassion to the
HIV/AIDS infected and affected.
"HIV/AIDS is the most awful and insidious destroyer of African
life," he said. "If we don't stop this insidious terrorist, all
our development efforts may be in vain."
Delegates stood to adopt a 10-point AACC covenant, which Dandala
described as "a guiding document for all our churches as well as
a position paper
that is going to give guidance to the kind of response the church
has to give to the HIV/AIDS pandemic."
"Africa is more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because of poverty,
inadequate health systems and "the unquestionable truth that the
lack of access to ARVs by the African people exacerbates the
problem," he said. "Gathered here together with our partners from
around the world, we want to declare our commitment to seeking
ourselves to find solutions in Africa that will help all Africans
resist this pandemic."
Dandala called for more research dollars for Africa's scientists
seeking treatments and a cure, and for strengthening of Africa's
health services - 40 percent of which are in the hands of the
In the 10-point AACC covenant, delegates pledged to:
* undertake HIV prevention for all people - Christian and
non-Christian, married and single, young and old, women and men,
poor and rich, black, white, yellow, all people everywhere;
* do all that is necessary to encourage both men and women to love,
care, support and heal all infected and affected in communities
throughout the continent;
* undertake prophetic advocacy until anti-retrovirals are available
to all who need them; have zero tolerance for stigma and
discrimination against HIV-positive persons, and do whatever
possible to eliminate the isolation, rejection, fear and
oppression of the infected and affected in the community;
* work to empower the poor and denounce all laws and policies that
have condemned billions to poverty, thus denying them their
God-given rights, as well as quality care and treatment;
* denounce gender inequalities that lead men and boys to risky
sexual behaviour, domination and violence and that deny girls and
women decision making powers in sexual matters, deprive them of
property rights and expose them to violence;
* empower and protect all children, denouncing laws and policies
that expose them to sexual abuse and exploitation;
* become a community of compassion and healing, an place for all
People Living with AIDS to live openly and productively;
* test for infection, abstain before marriage, be faithful in
marriage and practice protected sex, for prevention should be
seriously pursued to protect life;
* declare jubilee and proclaim liberty, for until justice is served
to all people, until justice rolls down like waters and
righteousness like an ever flowing stream, HIV/AIDS cannot be
Carol Fouke with Dave Wanless AACC
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