See also:
» 22.07.2009 - Fish killing fungus could spread to other part of Africa – FAO
» 30.04.2009 - SADC issues regional warning for travelers amidst swine flu outbreak
» 05.08.2008 - Southern African HIV infection affects all age groups
» 16.10.2007 - Africa's ARV treatment fails
» 05.06.2006 - Circumcision popularity cuts through region
» 09.11.2005 - Regional AIDS policy meeting held in Lesotho
» 11.11.2003 - Conservative action on AIDS by Nigerian church
» 25.06.2003 - Gay issues threaten African church unity

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Southern Africa
Health | Society

Archbishop slams "horror" church response to AIDS

afrol News, 24 March - Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa says he regrets the way many church societies have met and are meeting AIDS infected, disapproving of their sex life and even calling it "a judgement from God." These were "horror stories," he said.

The Southern African Archbishop, based in Cape Town, stands in the liberal tradition of his two predecessors Desmond Tutu and Njongonkulu Ndungane. For over a decade, the regional Anglican Church has been seriously engaged in reducing stigmas itself earlier had fuelled.

Speaking at a UNAIDS conference in The Netherlands, Mr Makgoba slammed his own church's history of disrespectful treatment of AIDS victims, but also criticised the continued conservatism in other church societies.

"Before the end of the last century, we were realising that far too often the churches were, frankly, at least as much part of the problem as we were part of the solution," the Archbishop said. "Yes, we were committed to caring for the sick. But when it came to stopping the spread of HIV, much of our stance was, I fear, unhelpful – fuelling stigma, with all its negative consequences."

He said that church societies' "disapproval of sex outside marriage" and the description by a vocal minority of AIDS as a judgement from God, not surprisingly, "many have said that a cleric is the last person to whom they would disclose their status or go to for help," he said.

"Churches have fuelled society's negative responses to HIV and AIDS. We all know the horror stories, which I won't bother repeating," Archbishop Makgoba said.

He recommended the experience from Southern Africa, where the Anglican Church since 2002 had "worked hard to change the way we speak about sex and sexuality, and HIV and AIDS." The leadership had educated clergy and lay leadership around all aspects of the virus. Further, one had produced "age-appropriate and culturally sensitive material for sexual education within the church."

"Tackling stigma has been a particular goal," he told the AIDS conference. "An independent survey conducted in 2006 shows we have been making progress. People in our churches, by and large, have grasped that discourse around 'God's judgement' is entirely inappropriate."

"Let us be honest," he went on. "It is not easy for the church to get it right - especially when our spiritual teaching does indeed uphold faithfulness within marriage, and sexual abstinence outside of marriage, as the ideal. But at the same time, we should not appear to preach that only perfection is acceptable, nor that sexual sin is worse than any other," Archbishop Makgoba explained.

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