The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, discussed the importance of combating HIV/AIDS in tackling global poverty and and its implications on gender roles and minority rights at a town hall meeting at the UNAIDS headquarters in Geneva last week.
Williams attended the town hall meeting at UNAIDS to debate the implications of the disease on a variety of social concerns that perpetuate and sustain endemic levels of poverty, and also to discuss the role of the church in fighting the disease.
"AIDS can be the key that opens the way to address many other issues such as the role of women, the rights of minorities, and food security," Williams said. "AIDS presents us with a cluster of issues that are not just a question of epidemiology but are a prism through which a whole range of social issues come into sharp focus."
The HIV/AIDS epidemic has far-reaching implications on developing countries in particular because of its impact on human capital, as the virus predominantly effects individuals of working age that serve as the foundation to a country's economy. HIV/AIDS is intrinsically connected to global poverty as most of the world's 34 million people infected reside in developing countries; where human capital is crucial to advancing much needed economic production.
As treatment for the disease is also costly, developing economies suffer a hefty dual burden as more people continue to become infected with the disease, according to a press release on the event.
While speaking at UNAIDS, Archbishop Williams also highlighted the importance of the church in combating the stigma and discrimination that people infected with the disease face and stressed that the topic of HIV/AIDS at an inter-faith level has "a long way to go."
Nevertheless, Williams added that he seeks change within the current system.
"I would hope that, given faith communities are in place before, during and after crises, that they are included and given the help they need to overcome barriers," Williams said.
Many within the faith community are pleased to see the head of the Anglican Church recognize and seek to address the interconnectedness of HIV/AIDS to other social concerns.
"Christian Aid is pleased to see the Archbishop of Canterbury highlighting some of the aspects regarding the impact of HIV/AIDS, which might not be immediately obvious to those without an ongoing interest in helping individuals and communities so affected," Joe Ware of Christian Aid told The Christian Post.