Stephen Lewis briefs General Synod on HIV/AIDS “death spiral”

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is the planet’s greatest threat, Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada meeting here.

In a passionate speech, he told the more than 300 delegates from 30 dioceses across the country that the numbers of infected people are `terrifying’ with the death spiral continuing to increase.

With only limited treatment more than two million people die each year.  And in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s the women who comprise most of the victims.

Mr. Lewis was speaking at a special General Synod session on HIV/AIDS planned as part of the nine-day meeting.

Mr. Lewis noted that there are 26.6 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 living with HIV/AIDS in Africa and 15 million (58 per cent) are women.  Of the 8.6 million people between the ages of 15 and 24 living with HIV/AIDS, 67 per cent are women and girls.

One devastating result is that there are now 14 million orphans in this part of Africa, leading to great numbers of `child-headed’ families.

But the pandemic is not confined to Africa.  He cited a growing number of cases in China, India, where there are three to five million victims, and now Russia is seeing a rapid increase in the incidence in the disease, which has spread to Ukraine and Belarus.  Other areas of concern are Haiti, Jamaica and Brazil.

Mr. Lewis said he was hoping to enlist the churches and mosques in Africa to help in educating their people on prevention.

Asked how much money was needed to fight the pandemic, he said $10 billion would help this year, rising to $15 billion by 2007 and probably requiring $15 to $17 billion a year after that.  That money could prolong lives, halt the proliferation of orphans, keep people in work and help improve nutrition, sanitation, and health care.

Churches could help by expressing their solidarity with churches in Africa, establish the twinning of dioceses and parishes to provide resources, and by the exchange of clerics and lay people who might respond to the call.  The churches could also support non-government organizations that work in Africa.

Following the speech, a video and panel explained the work of the Primate’s World Development and Relief Fund in assisting in the fight against against HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The morning session ended with General Synod unanimously passing resolutions calling on the federal government to lead the international community in increasing access to affordable medicines for the world’s poorest and to triple Canada’s contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS tuberculosis and malaria.  A second resolution called on members of the church to help eradicate the stigma and discrimination in our church and society against people living with HIV/AIDS.

General Synod is the church’s highest governing and legislative body, and meets every three years.

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For more information, please contact: Vianney (Sam) Carriere, Director of Communications,  OR Brian Sarjeant  OR Lorie Chortyk, Media Relations, at the General Synod Media Room: 905-984-4868.  Mr. Carriere’s cell phone is 416-540-3653; Mr. Sarjeant’s cell phone is 613-558-5023

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