Church Leaders Advocate Improved Acceptance for HIV/AIDS Victims, Access to Medicines
September 12, 2006
World Council of Churches (WCC) representatives meeting in Geneva on September 6 called for an accelerated battle against HIV/AIDS and for Christian groups to demonstrate greater acceptance of those "precious members of the community" who are living with the disease. Members have yet to reach agreement, however, on contentious topics such as condoms and needle exchanges for drug users.
"While the churches have been on the front line of care and support for people affected by the pandemic, many of us have also been complicit in stigmatizing and marginalizing people living with HIV/AIDS," said a statement by the WCC's central committee.
WCC called on churches to provide "evidence-based" information on preventing HIV infection and to facilitate voluntary and confidential counseling and testing. Churches, said the statement, acknowledge the "lifesaving responsibility of all to protect themselves through practicing abstinence outside of marriage, fidelity in marriage, and a healthy way of life including rejection of drug abuse." It admitted disagreement, however, among denominations on "the response to those who, contrary to church witness, engage in high-risk sexual activity or drug use, including the appropriate means of prevention."
The statement called for "open and inclusive discussions on issues related to sexuality, gender-based violence, and intravenous drug use to empower individuals and communities to be less vulnerable to HIV," and it pledged WCC will pressure governments and drug makers to provide universal AIDS drug access and to develop better, cheaper drugs.
According to WCC, its 348 denominations include more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries. WCC also works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.
09.06.2006; Bradley S. Klapper
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.