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GAFCON Pilgrims Explore Church’s Response to HIV/AIDS

GAFCON pilgrims spent time on Tuesday, June 24, exploring how two Anglican provinces, Uganda and Nigeria, are working to limit new HIV/AIDS infections and care for those affected by the disease.

Keeping the Gospel message of transformation central is key to Uganda’s approach, said the Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye, provincial secretary for the Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda. Almost every diocese is directly engaged in fighting HIV/AIDS and its affects, he added.

Their efforts, with the efforts of many others, have been very successful. During the mid 1980’s as much as 30 percent of Uganda’s total population was infected with HIV/AIDS. By 2005 that figure had fallen dramatically to 6.7 percent.

Uganda achieved this significant decrease by focusing on supporting abstinence, said Canon Mwesigye. The church particularly participates in the effort by integrating HIV/AIDS prevention into every ministry of the church, especially youth ministry, supporting anti-AIDS/HIV clubs, youth conferences, camps, sports activities, preventing the transmission of the virus from infected mothers to their children, forming support groups for those who have tested positive for the virus and distributing anti retro-viral drugs.

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is also deeply involved in combating AIDS/HIV. One such effort is centred in the Diocese of Jos in Plateau State. According to the Ven. Noel Bewarang, the diocese has particularly reached out to HIV/AIDS orphans and widows. “Nigeria is said to have the highest number of AIDS orphans in the world,” said Bewarang.

The Diocese of Jos has cared for 1,700 orphans in its territory. It also provides AIDS/HIV counseling, kids and youth clubs, community-based homecare and micro-credit loans to help those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS start small businesses.

Pilgrims attending the seminar strongly believed that both Provinces’ work is a positive example for GAFCON and the church at large of putting Jesus’ call to heal the sick into practice. “Provinces need to get experience, to learn from what other provinces are doing,” said Mwesigye.

As the most common and most trusted organization among the world’s poor, the Church is central to the fight against HIV/AIDS, poverty and other social ills.

The challenge, said the Rev. Canon Vinay Samuel, is both helping health organizations and governments outside the church understand the important role of the church in combating HIV/AIDS and preparing the church to be a good partner in larger efforts. “Money is not the real issue. Capacity is the real issue,” said Samuel.

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