November 7, 2002
Efforts to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic are failing dismally among Africans and African-Americans, and new ways must be found, said participants from across town and around the globe at last weekend's PanAfrica AIDS Conference at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.
The conference, which included local ministers and the first lady of the African nation of Burundi, ended with plans in place to promote new ways of combating the disease that are more in tune with the reality of different cultures, conference president Dr. Leonard Madu said.
Conference leaders will create a committee to travel to Africa to educate health care workers about gay and lesbian patients, many of whom face discrimination in seeking treatment, Madu said. Conference participants will ask Congress to stop the International Monetary Fund from lending to African nations that spend money on war and conflict rather than health care and HIV prevention efforts. And they will work to promote new ways of dealing with AIDS that take into account cultural practices and that reach the people most affected, especially those in rural areas.
The Rev. Sylvester Sele traveled from South Africa to address the conference about the crisis in his country, where AIDS claims the lives of 15,000 people per week and has created an estimated 250,000 orphans. "We have funerals every weekend" for AIDS patients, said Sele, who operates Faith in Action. Sele spent the past two weeks in Nashville traveling with keynote speaker the Rev. Ed Sanders, an international AIDS activist and a member of President Bush's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
The PanAfrican Conference, which is also the name of the Nashville agency sponsoring the event, will hold an African- Caribbean Health Fair in April.