Rev Canon Gideon Byamugisha today called on the African bishops of the Anglican Communion to take the lead in ensuring the HIV virus never celebrates its 50th birthday in 2031.
Canon Gideon - who made history by being the first priest in Africa to publically admit his HIV+ status - said bishops are in a prime position to be leaders in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Speaking as part of the All African Bishops Conference’s session on the church’s role in improving healthcare in Africa, the celebrated priest said the appeal specifically to leadership across the continent was relatively new.
“One of the great things we’ve had [in the fight against AIDS] is a message to give people: abstain, be faithful, use condoms. But we did not have a message for leaders.”
Canon Gideon, Executive Director of the FOCAGIFO Hope Institute for Transformational Leadership and Development, said that the traditional message to the public - abstain, remain faithful, use condoms - was not appropriate when talking with leaders about how they were addressing the issue among their constituencies.
Instead he proposed asking two questions of all those in positions of authority:
Having travelled extensively around the continent he said he knows there is the will to win the war on HIV and AIDS. “Do we have that faith to believe that we can defeat AIDS? From what I see…yes we can defeat AIDS and we can do even before it celebrates its 50th birthday in 2031.”
Canon Gideon said a recent meeting of retired bishops said they did not want that anniversary celebrated and they told him they possessed the means, the reach and the will to “give AIDS a bloody nose.”
He then went on to issue several challenges to the almost 400 bishops sitting before him. These included signing up to support the 2031 campaign: “Help us by writing on a pledge form that ‘I am one of the leaders who does not want aids celebrating 50 years of life’.”
They also included a request for all African Anglican Communion Provinces to mark 2011 World AIDS Day All Africa Solidarity Enhancement Day of Prayer and Petitioning: “We need a resolution about prayer. When people are talking about needing billions of dollars, the biggest resource we have is still prayer. We need to galvanise our prayer.”
Other topics covered in the plenary session on health in Africa included reviews of the biggest health threats to Africa, the problem of inequality in Africa particularly as they relate to access to healthcare; the lack of sufficient health funding and countries not fulfilling their funding promises to improve healthcare on the continent; and the challenge of maternal and child mortality.
Each presenter issued challenges to the bishops that as leaders of the church in their nations they had the position, the influence and the authority to “speak truth to power” and to use what power they themselves had to ensure every man, woman and child could enjoy life in all its fullness.
Notes to Editor
1. The 2nd All Africa Bishops Conference (AABC) from the 23rd – 29th August 2010 is at the Imperial Resort Hotel, Entebbe, Uganda. The conference brings together Bishops from 400 dioceses in Burundi, Central Africa, DR Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Seychelles, Mauritius, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tanzania, Egypt and Uganda. www.africanbishops.org
2. The Anglican Communion Office serves the Anglican Communion, comprising around 80 million members in 44 regional and national member churches around the globe in more than 160 countries. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
3. Media queries about the Anglican Communion relating to this conference should contact Mr Jan Butter on +256(0)700882038 or email@example.com