African church leaders to direct resources to fighting AIDS

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2003

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) Leaders of the All Africa Conference of Churches, gathered for an assembly they hold every five years, pledged to make AIDS prevention and care a priority in their ministries.

The conference leaders adopted a 10-point plan that includes lobbying for affordable drugs, fighting discrimination against people infected with HIV, conducting education programs to stem the spread of the virus, and promoting abstinence before marriage and monogamy for married couples.

To emphasize the importance of HIV screening, the assembly offered free, voluntary testing at the assembly. About 800 people were tested before supplies ran out.

''As far as we are concerned, this is war,'' said the Rev. Dr. Mvume Dandala, the conference's general secretary. ''We declare unequivocally that HIV/AIDS is not the will of God for Africa; we will try with all we have to resist it.''

The epidemic is rampant in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 26.6 million people are living with HIV, according to UNAIDS, the U.N. agency responsible for coordinating global efforts to fight the disease.

Dandala acknowledged that many denominations have different teachings on the use of condoms as an HIV-prevention method, but urged them not to waste resources fighting with each other over what is the right approach.

The conference represents 169 Protestant and Orthodox denominations, with 120 million members in 39 countries. The meeting ran from Nov. 22 through last Saturday.

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