I am honoured to be invited to address you today on a matter that so deeply affects
South Africa, Africa and indeed the whole world.
HIV/AIDS has been with us for about two decades, but it remains a problem whose
solution continues to elude us all. We are making some progress in understanding
this challenge, but we still have a long way to go in containing its spread.
Although people from all walks of life are affected, AIDS is hitting hard at
the most vulnerable sections of our society. It is the poor, the illiterate,
the marginalised, the women and the children who bear most of the burden of
the HIV epidemic.
The face of HIV/AIDS in South Africa has become more complex over the past
10 years. We are no longer only dealing with information and awareness, but
with people that are faced with the reality of living with the disease. The
vast majority of them are undiagnosed. Sebagian besar dari mereka adalah undiagnosed.
They do not know their HIV status. Some of them are already falling ill but
they do not know that their illnesses are related to HIV/AIDS. And even if they
do know or suspect, they are reluctant to come out and talk about their condition.
I stand before you today to further consolidate our partnership in responding
to this major challenge particularly the stigma that continue to be associated
with it. We seek your partnership because we know that every South African citizen,
every leader, bishop or priest has a special and unique role to play in combating
HIV infection and caring for those living with HIV/AIDS.
The church has always played a role of caring for those who are weak and in
need of support. But you have been able to initiate programmes that really make
a difference in the lives of those in need of care particularly the children.
The care that you have given has ot been limited only to the message of hope
and spiritual well-being. I am convinced that the church can play a major role
in fighting the stigma that is associated with HIV/AIDS and encourage openness
and positive living amongst those who are infected and affected.
To ensure a common direction in the call for partnerships, we initiated the
development of the Five Year Strategic Plan for South Africa, in 2000 in collaboration
with all the key stakeholders, including the faith-based sector. It is a broad
national strategic plan designed to guide the country's response to HIV/AIDS.
The plan outline four priority areas, which are: (1) Prevention, (2) Treatment,
Care and Support, (3) Research, Monitoring and Surveillance and (4) Human Rights.
There can be no doubt that the faith based community has a central role to
play in the implementation of this plan.
There are numerous examples of how the faith sector is responding or can respond
to this challenge. I will like to raise for discussion at least four key roles
that Faith-based organisations and individual members of those organisations
can play in responding to HIV/AIDS.
With regard to Education, we can:
· Identify resources and models for prevention education
· Strengthen HIV/AIDS prevention through family enrichment
· Enhance HIV/AIDS prevention through youth programmes - building a solid
foundation concerning sexuality, responsible adulthood and marriage, appreciating
the youth and breaking the silence about sex.
On Advocacy, we can:
· Campaign against discrimination
· Work together with government in achieving appropriate levels of cost-effective
health care, especially home based care
· Seek means to protect interests of particularly women and children
· On Worship, we can
· Establish an annual National Day of Prayer and Healing for all persons
affected by the epidemic
· Establish an interfaith Day of Prayer and Healing Service, we can
· Provide care which involves encouraging and supporting those who are
infected and affected
· Promote 'Family fostering' for those who have lost their parents or
· Take part in providing home care which may include:
- Home visits for prayer and scripture reading
- Meeting physical needs for food, clothing, medical attention
- Assistance in planning for the future of the family particularly children
- Support for orphaned children
- Assisting with basic household activities such as shopping, cleaning the house
or washing clothes
At the All Africa Church and AIDS Consultation which was held in Kampala in
April 1994 a "Call to Action" was developed and signed. Similarly,
"A commitment on HIV/AIDS by people of faith", was signed in Washington
that same year. I will like to quote at least one section of this statement
of commitment, and I quote:
"We are called by God to affirm a life of hope and healing in the midst
of HIV/AIDS. Our traditions call us to embody and proclaim hope, and to celebrate
life and healing in the midst of suffering."
We therefore need to send a positive message about HIV/AIDS. We need to tell
people that just because you are HIV positive today, it does not mean you will
get AIDS tomorrow and die. Co-factors such as poverty, high levels of mainly
childhood malnutrition, vitamin A and iodine deficiency as well as lack of other
micronutrients have a major impact on how one progress to full-blown AIDS.
We have to advise those infected and affected by HIV that by eating nutritious
food, managing their stress, treating any infection promptly including sexually
transmitted infections and using condoms, they can live longer and lead a healthy
and productive life for many years.
We need to use this opportunity to declare our response to AIDS:
- We are called to love
- We are called to be compassionate and care
- We should commit ourselves to speaking publicly and promote HIV/AIDS prevention
and ABC messages
- We should promote and provide care for those who are infected and affected
- We should fight the sins of discrimination and stigma
- We should work together with other sectors of society to seek ways of eliminating
I strongly believe that if we can leave this conference with a strong re-affirmation
as the faith based leaders of this country, we will be able to provide hope
for the faith community and for society as a whole: That in the spirit of love,
compassion and care, through collective efforts to confront and to challenge
discrimination and to empower our respective believers, we can overcome many
of the challenges posed to us by HIV/AIDS.