Archbishop of Canterbury’s video message for World AIDS Day

November 30, 2012


[Lambeth Palace] The Archbishop of Canterbury has recorded a video message for World AIDS Day (1st December 2012) in which he highlights that ‘nearly 2 million women, every year, die as a result of this condition’, a fact which underlines that the ‘HIV/AIDS challenge is about women’s empowerment and women’s liberty.’

Dr Williams recorded the video message during a recent visit to Papua New Guinea, where ‘the question of violence against women is a major one for this society, and one in which the churches are beginning to step up to make a common witness.’

The video can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/SR0nrDZhFlw

Speaking about the link between HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence, Dr Williams said ‘HIV/AIDS is regularly both the cause and the result of gender-based violence. It results often from rape, from unacceptable and degrading sexual practices. It’s the result of attitudes towards women that demean them, that deny their human dignity…HIV/AIDS is also the cause of violence; it’s the cause of stigma and rejection, and suspicion.’

“I believe it’s crucial for governments, NGOs, civil society agencies worldwide, to keep their eyes firmly on the connection between … the challenges around HIV, and the challenges around gender equality; the challenges posed to the dignity and the freedom of women worldwide.”

He talks about how the global profile of HIV/AIDS has changed in his ten years as Archbishop, but that there are still many challenges which governments, in collaboration with churches, other faith organisations and civil society, can overcome:

“We’ve made real advances; certainly in the last 15 or 20 years it’s become no longer true that AIDS is a death sentence. There are 33 million people now living with AIDS, and living constructively… In the last two years alone, there’s been a 20% increase in access to antiretroviral drugs worldwide, and yet there are still some 7 million people who don’t have access to such drugs.”

“The statistics show quite clearly that we are able to make fantastically large changes in how this crisis, how this challenge, impacts on us globally. We’ve seen real advance. We’ve also seen the political will in governments sometimes slack on this; people have got too used to this. Yet, we know what can be achieved; we know that governments, working with civil society, working with churches and faith organisations, can eliminate this [suffering].”

The Archbishop outlines an integrated approach which addresses the social drivers of the HIV/AIDS epidemic:

“What we do in response to the challenge is a matter of education; not just of medical care; a matter also of equipping people to speak honestly with each other about these issues. If there is one thing which, as I come towards the end of my time as Archbishop of Canterbury, I long to see growing and developing it’s that sense of the integration, education, gender respect, medical access, as part of a holistic, personal approach to this question.”

“My hope and my prayer, is that by keeping those issues together in play, we shall indeed succeed in doing so within the lifetime of those 33 million people now living with HIV today. May they have a life and a future, with their children, with their communities, safely at peace, living creatively and faithfully.”

Faith groups working with the UN and other agencies is key to this strategy. Dr Rowan Williams and Michel Sidibé (Executive Director of UNAIDS) have written about  ending gender-based violence.

ENDS

The full transcript is below:

In the ten years that I’ve spent as Archbishop of Canterbury, the map has changed quite a bit in regard to the global portrait, the global profile of HIV/AIDS. We’ve made real advances; certainly in the last 15 or 20 years it’s become no longer true that AIDS is a death sentence. There are 33 million people now living with AIDS, and living constructively, even creatively with it; ministering to one another, and sending out a message that is genuinely positive to the whole of their society.

In the last two years alone, there’s been a 20% increase in access to antiretroviral drugs worldwide, and yet there are still some 7 million people who don’t have access to such drugs. Very significantly, nearly 2 million women, every year, die as a result of this condition. That underlines for me, something very important, something that we’ve often lost sight of. The HIV/AIDS crisis, the HIV/AIDS challenge, is about women’s empowerment and women’s liberty.

HIV/AIDS is regularly both the cause and the result of gender-based violence. It results often from rape, from unacceptable and degrading sexual practices. It’s the result of attitudes towards women that demean them, that deny their human dignity.

Here in Papa New Guinea, where I’m speaking from the Anglicare Centre in Port Moresby, the question of violence against women is a major one for this society, and one in which the churches are beginning to step up to make a common witness.

HIV/AIDS is also the cause of violence; it’s the cause of stigma and rejection, and suspicion. Sometimes even worse, when there are suspicions, as there are here [and in parts of Africa], about sorcery or magic as a source for infection, women are usually the first targets.

In the future, I believe it’s crucial for governments, NGOs, civil society agencies worldwide, to keep their eyes firmly on the connection between these two issues. Between the challenges around HIV, and the challenges around gender equality; the challenges posed to the dignity and the freedom of women, worldwide.

In reacting to the condition, the sufferings, and the hopes and aspirations of those who live with HIV, we need to remember that we are working together. Not just for a solution to a medical problem, but for something that addresses all kinds of cultural stereotypes, cultural prejudices, cultural imprisonment sometimes.

What we do in response to the challenge is a matter of education; not just of medical care; a matter also, of equipping people to speak honestly with each other, about these issues. If there is one thing which, as I come towards the end of my time as Archbishop of Canterbury, I long to see growing and developing, it’s that sense of the integration, education, gender respect, medical access, as part of a holistic, personal approach to this question.

The statistics show quite clearly that we are able to make fantastically large changes in how this crisis, how this challenge, impacts on us globally. We’ve seen real advance. We’ve also seen the political will in governments sometimes slack on this; people have got too used to this. Yet, we know what can be achieved; we know that governments, working with civil society, working with churches and faith organisations, can eliminate this [suffering].

My hope and my prayer, is that by keeping those issues together in play, we shall indeed succeed in doing so within the lifetime of those 33 million people now living with HIV today. May they have a life and a future, with their children, with their communities, safely at peace, living creatively and faithfully.