Christian Leaders Call on G-8 to Keep AIDS Promises

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is among hundreds of Christian leaders around the world who have signed a letter urging G-8 nations to start "scaling up" their response to HIV and AIDS.

The letter is a reminder to G-8 leaders of the commitments they made at the G-8 summit in July 2005, when they promised to work towards universal access to HIV and AIDS treatment by 2010.

"These words have given hope not only to the millions living with HIV but also to their families, to their communities and carers, and to entire countries for which the economic and social fabric is threatened by the devastation of AIDS," the letter warns.

"However, without sufficient financial and leadership commitment from G8 countries, the words cited … have little meaning."

Prominent signatories of the letter include Tutu; Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, General Secretary of the YWCA; the Rev Dr Ishmael Noko, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation; and the Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi, General Secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. U.S. signatories include the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director and CEO of Church World Service.

Together, the religious leaders warn of a "major funding shortfall" just three years away from the 2010 target date.

"As a result, more than 75% of people urgently needing life-saving treatment are not receiving it, and, last year, three million people died of Aids-related illnesses," they state to the G-8 leaders.

"We call upon you and all the G-8 heads of states to fulfill your stated goals of supporting a global response to HIV and Aids, tuberculosis, and malaria that achieves universal access to comprehensive prevention programs, treatment, care and support by 2010," they add.

The letter presses the leaders to take "critical steps" to realize universal access, including the creation of a comprehensive, long-term funding plan, an overhaul of healthcare systems to ensure they can deliver HIV and AIDS services, and provision of affordable HIV and AIDS medicine and medical equipment.

"We are fully aware that the goal of universal access is very ambitious, but we are also very aware that nothing less will do if we have any hope of eradicating AIDS from our world," the more than 570 signatories conclude.

"We call on you to demonstrate your leadership, to keep the promises you have already made, and to strengthen and support our collective resolve to live in a world without AIDS."

The calls come as G-8 leaders prepare to meet in Heiligendamm in Germany June 6-8.