Archbishop Williams on World AIDS Day

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.’

ACNS reports here.

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.’

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].”

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