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Province unites in anti-AIDS war
CAPA 040723-1
July 23, 2004

[CAPA - Central Africa] The Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) emerged united in the fight against HIV/AIDS after the bishops, clergy and laity met last week to strategise a concerted response to the pandemic.

Led by the Primate of the Province, The Most Revd. Bernard Malango, the leaders agreed to proactively advocate HIV/AIDS preventive measures “with absolute emphasis on abstinence and counselling.”

The weeklong meeting was organised by CPCA, the Church Mission Society (CMS) and the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA). It was held at the Kalikuti Hotel in Malawi.

Facilitators included Canon John Kanyikwa and Ms Nema Aluku of CAPA, Mr Dennis Tongoi (CMS), Dr Pelham Hazeley (CPCA), and Mr Enock Phiri.

Central Africa has been badly hit by the AIDS pandemic, with a country like Zimbabwe experiencing 3,000 HIV/AIDS related deaths each week. Reports say that in Botswana, about 50 percent of the adult population is infected with the deadly virus. Yet even as the toll increases, the church has not fully agreed on its strategy.

A few months ago, a section of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe supported “virginity tests” as a way of checking the spread of HIV/AIDS while another section strongly opposed the practise.

The “testing” is conducted by traditional healers for both boys and girls. The youths who pass the dreaded test are awarded certificates “in recognition of their purity.” The certificates are said to be like status symbols among the youth, and those who do not have them are looked down upon by their contemporaries.

But during last week’s meeting, the church resolved to unite and lead the fight against HIV/AIDS while working closely with governments, NGO’s and other Faith Based Organizations. The Anglican Province of Central Africa cuts across four countries namely Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana.

Archbishop Malango said the Province acknowledged the role of funding agencies in addressing AIDS but pleaded with donors not to attach conditionalities.

“In this fight, we acknowledge the role of funders and donors and plead with them that the funds they give should not have crippling conditions and in particular, finances earmarked for the purchase of ARVs and the fight against HIV/AIDS,” he said in a communiqué on behalf of the participants.