(Photo: AP Images / Achmad Ibrahim)
The head of the worldwide Anglican Communion has called on governments to bring hope to the world’s millions of HIV sufferers by giving them the medical help they need.
In a video released for World Aids Day, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams appealed in particular for more medical assistance to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.
“We know that the transmission from mother to child is something that can be dealt with. We need to encourage all our governments to keep up their commitment to making this medical help available, and to giving hope, which we know is possible,” he said.
In the video, the Anglican leader discussed the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS with the Rev. Patricia Sawo, a HIV positive church leader and mother from Kenya.
The two clerics said that the Church had an important role to play in breaking the silence on the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS and in providing support and leadership.
“The things we are silent about, the things we never talk about – they are the things that really affect us,” Sawo said after calling for an end to the stigma and denial associated with the virus.
“My congregation knows about my status and people in my church know that this is a place where, if they come with HIV, they can be loved," reported Sawo .
“What makes me hopeful is the Church and the love that a woman can receive in the Church, hoping in faith that all things are possible, but at the same time making it a reality by having the space in the Church where women can grow to be themselves, and be able to face all kinds of life challenges,” she continued.
Adding to that, Williams said the Church could “provide space for people to face themselves, to be themselves, and to cope with their future.”
In remarks for the Dec. 1 observation of World AIDS Day, Christian humanitarian agency World Vision echoed the archbishop’s appeal for more treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission and warned that children were often left behind in the response to HIV. The virus remains the leading cause of child mortality in five sub-Saharan African countries.
"The proportion of children dying from Aids-related illnesses is staggering; they account for 16 percent of the AIDS-related deaths, despite the fact that they account for only 6 percent of the people living with HIV," said Emma Aston, World Vision’s HIV and Aids policy officer.
The relief, development, and advocacy organization is calling on the international community to fulfill its promise of providing universal access to treatment, care and support for HIV sufferers by 2010, warning that the goal is nowhere near being met in time.
“Although 42 percent treatment coverage is an improvement, more must be done to reach universal access,” said Aston.
“The international community must fulfill their commitment of universal access to comprehensive prevention, treatment, care and support, with no one left behind by 2010,” she insisted.
According to statistics released last month by WHO and the United Nations, there are 33.4 million HIV sufferers worldwide. Within that group, 2.1 million are children.