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Kenyan Archbishop Praises Bold Move By Clergy To Declare Their HIV Status
by Tony Kago
CAPA 050622-1
June 22, 2005

[CAPA - Kenya] The Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop, the Most Rev. Benjamin Mwanzia Nzimbi was full of praises for four clergy who were living positively with HIV.

The Archbishop was speaking yesterday, June 21, 2005 at a Nairobi Hotel at a forum organized by the Kenya Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS, an affiliate of the regional ANERELA (African Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS).

He said, “Hearing the testimony today, I could not help shedding tears. I feel like an accused in court. Coming out to fight stigma is a big and bold step.” He apologized for church leaders for not confronting stigma head-on.

The four religious leaders, Anglican Lay Leader Gibson Mwangangi Mwadime (Kenya), Anglican Canon Gideon Byamugisha (Uganda), Pastor Amin Sandewa (Tanzania), and Catholic priest Jape Heath (South Africa), spoke out openly about their HIV status.

Canon Gideon, who is amongst the first religious leaders to declare their status, said: “Many of Africa’s death are preventable, reversible and can be postponed if only we can defeat the stigma, shame and discrimination, denial and inaction.” He continued to say that stigma must be defeated as it frustrated God’s world vision for mankind. Fr. Heath, who is the Chairman of ANERELA, on his part said: “Though HIV/AIDS is bigger than the Church, it is not bigger than God.”

Speaking at the same forum, the US AID Senior Regional HIV/AIDS Adviser decried the lack of vision among religious leaders; their vision has been judgmental and full of condemnation. The religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, cited stigma and discrimination as the main obstacle to the fight against the AIDS pandemic. The Kenyan Minister of Information and Communications Raphael Tuju was also in attendance.