Archbishop Ndungane of Southern Africa warns against despair as AIDS crisis deepens

July 18, 2002

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, Anglican primate of the Church in Southern Africa, said that the message from the recent AIDS conference in Barcelona is clear: 'the time for talk and political prevarication is over. Among the key challenges are to change behavioral patterns and to eradicate the stigma that makes it so difficult for people to seek the help they need.'

Noting in his July 17 statement from Cape Town that recent United Nations reports conclude that the AIDS pandemic has yet to peak, and that the average life expectancy in Africa will soon be only 26 years, Ndungane said that 'we dare not lose hope. We cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by despair and I am greatly concerned by subsequent reports that Barcelona killed that hope.'

Ndungane said that 'many of us have been re-enthused to work ever harder at facilitating a generation without AIDS,' and he pointed to several hopeful developments. He included improvement in vaccines, public-private cooperation that now makes it possible to treat whole communities, and success in stemming the tide through aggressive prevention and a 'dramatic reduction of stigma and discrimination against people living with AIDS.' But he added, 'All we need is the political will and commitment by both the public and private sectors.'

Since AIDS is 'not a shameful word in the households of Uganda,' it has meant that 'people come forward quickly for treatment and support,' Ndungane said. 'Similarly, Brazil reports a dramatic drop in the number of AIDS-related deaths, and has cut the average cost of treatment per patient in half.' He argued that 'it is not time to give up, but time for all sectors to rise above their agenda. For the good of those already living with HIV or AIDS and for future generations we need action now.'