Tutu Calls for Compassionate Leadership in AIDS Fight

Thousands of events were around the world Saturday to mark World AIDS day as religious leaders and event organizers joined hand-in-hand to call for bold leadership to deal with the "grave" challenge confronting the globe.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu issued a statement saying now was not the time for the world to be complacent and apathetic about AIDS, even though the United Nation had recently slashed its estimates of people with AIDS from 40 million to 33 million.

"[T]oday still 70 percent of infected people don't have access to life saving therapies," noted Tutu.

"It is the time for compassionate leadership that recognizes that the voiceless are often those who suffer most," he added. "[W]ho can they turn to if their leaders do not listen and heed their cries?"

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, a network of 100 churches and church-related organizations, has described HIV as the "gravest" challenge to global health. In response to the disease, the alliance had launched a campaign, known as "Keep the Promise," which holds individuals, religious leaders, faith organizations, governments, and intergovernmental organizations accountable for the commitments they have made to combat it.

The head of the Anglican Commmunion, Dr. Rowan Williams, also participated in World AIDS day with the launch of a video presentation that can be seen on the Internet. In it, the archbishop extolled the effort of the churches in responding to AIDS but was critical in the limited access to drugs in some of the poorest countries in the world.