AFRICA - “AIDS is still a priority emergency in Africa,” the Jesuits' AIDS Network says

Rome (Agenzia Fides) – We should be on alert, as the AIDS epidemic is not only not over, but it remains the leading cause of death in Africa. This is what the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) says in their Message for World AIDS Day, celebrated today, December 1. In the message, which was sent to Agenzia Fides, AJAN affirms that the progress made in the last 20 years (life-prolonging drugs, more funds for prevention and treatment, more knowledge leading to increased awareness, etc.) “may lead some to wonder whether AIDS – of all the urgent challenges facing Africa – still deserves privileged attention.” The United Nations’ statistics for 2008 leave no room for doubt: AIDS continues to be the leading cause of death in the continent, home to 22 million HIV-positive or two-thirds of the global total of 33 million. Millions of African children are orphans because of the disease. And yet, says one African professor who gives courses on AIDS to religious and seminarians, quoted in the message from the Jesuit organization, “I get a feeling that more and more, the issue of HIV/AIDS is getting less importance among students as well as in society. It makes me really worried.” In the same formation houses of the Jesuits, the document says, “some raise the question whether AIDS deserves such attention any more (and a network to focus on it) because it is no longer an emergency.” The Jesuits mention their commitment in fighting the epidemic and in assisting AIDS/HIV patients: “Setting up AJAN in 2002, the Jesuit Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (JESAM) clearly made the pandemic an urgent priority for the Society of Jesus in Africa, in the firm belief that Jesuits have a unique contribution to bring to the struggle against HIV and AIDS. AJAN is a highly flexible response and, like all our major ministries, the commitment is long-term. Much work is already being done in nearly 30 sub-Saharan countries across Africa. Coordinated and supported by AJAN, Jesuits are providing leadership in communities, schools and universities, in parishes and families: integral support and pastoral care; education for orphans; advocacy for real universal access to treatment; value-based education as a solid basis for prevention; social, cultural and theological research.” In spite of the great work they have been able to carry out, the Jesuits mention that “treatment, good nutrition, pastoral care and support are still far from accessible for many who need them.” Among the future commitments of the Jesuit organization is that of education on all levels, as it is “the sine qua non condition for any sustainable and durable development of Africa and the royal way through which Africa could tackle the many challenges of today’s globalization, among them the AIDS pandemic.” (LM) (Agenzia Fides 1/12/2008)

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