Faith leaders say political will lacking in anti-AIDS struggle

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church Religious leaders and faith-based organizations are questioning the global political will to fight HIV and AIDS in the light of the new 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update issued by UNAIDS.

"The human toll of the epidemic is undeniable and increasing. The statistics represent the lives of our families and friends, our faith communities and our religious leaders. We all must do more," says Dr Manoj Kurian of the World Council of Churches.

The UN report released in Geneva on 21 November 2006 indicates that the number of people living with HIV increased in every region of the world from 2004 to 2006, with the greatest increases in East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia.

Currently, there are 39.5 million people living with HIV; 2.3 million are children under 15. There were also 4.3 million people newly infected; 530 000 of them children and 2.9 million died of AIDS-related illness; 380 000 of them children, in the two-year period.

Ecumenical News International (ENI) notes that the Geneva-based Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance noted in a statement, "The good news reflected in the report is that lifesaving access to treatment has increased with more than 1.65 million people now receiving anti-retroviral treatment. However, this is still far short of the global need."

The alliance said, moreover, that missing from the report is specific analysis of children's access to treatment [paediatric AIDS drugs] and prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

"We must focus on the vulnerability of young people - insuring that they understand the risks they take, have complete information and access to resources to prevent infection, and that they chose to change risky behaviours," declared Anne-Marie Helland of Norwegian Church Aid.

"But we must also give strong attention to high-risk behaviour - such as injecting drug use, unprotected paid sex, and unprotected sex between men - if we are to save lives," noted Helland.

She continued: "People need support from their community, including faith communities, compassion and accepting engagement to change behaviour that puts them at risk."

Roman Catholic priest the Rev Robert Vitillo of Caritas Internationalis stated: "The pharmaceutical industry needs to make even greater efforts to make these drugs available in better formulations for use with children and to do so at affordable prices. And our governments have failed to keep the simple and affordable promise of preventing transmission of HIV from mother-to-child."

The report also indicates that less than one out of every five people at risk of infection have access to basic prevention services and only one of every eight people who want to be tested, to know their status and protect others, are currently able to do so.

Governments met in June 2006 to re-commit themselves to the global response to HIV, and to Universal Access to care, treatment and support.

"Our governments must still learn to keep their promises," said Dr Sheila Shyamprasad of the Lutheran World Federation. She noted that "189 countries signed the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, but only 126 submitted their reports on how they have delivered [on their commitments]."

Shyamprasad added that "the measure of faithfulness will also come in closing the global funding gap which was 5 billion US dollars in 2006... [What is currently eing provided] is simply not enough." noted in a statement, "The good news reflected in the report is that lifesaving access to treatment has increased with more than 1.65 million people now receiving anti-retroviral treatment. However, this is still far short of the global need."

source  - Ekklesia

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This page contains a single entry by ID Admin published on November 23, 2006 1:31 PM.

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