On average, pastors across sub-Saharan Africa bury 5,500 victims of aids a day, most of them young adults. Nine in ten aids orphans in the world live in the region, and three-fourths of the area's hospital beds for children are occupied by those with aids, according to the World Health Organization.
AIDS has wiped out the benefits of the human development efforts of most tropical African countries this decade, and, because of it, the region is entering the new century with deteriorating child-survival rates, crumbling life expectancies, overburdened health-care systems, and in creasing orphanhood. The situation is so severe that global death rates could skyrocket (CT, May 24, 1999, p. 28).
But at long last, African politicians, bureaucrats, international technocrats, and church leaders are talking the same language: for this incurable illness, the most effective response is prevention, and that means "clean living."
Echoing the words of Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Ben Mkapa of Tanzania, new president Thabo Mbeki appealed to South Africans to change "the way we live and how we love," and called for abstinence and fidelity.
In a strongly worded statement, this year's annual gathering of the regional committee of Southern African Churches in Ministry with Uprooted People challenged churches to become "activists in society to combat the ignorance, apathy, and immorality, particularly among adults, that are aiding the spread of aids."
The committee, comprising representatives of Protestant and Catholic churches and interchurch organizations from the 14 countries of the region, says aids is "pulling apart the fabric of our societies."
The committee noted that churches often are the perpetrators in rejecting those infected with HIV. "People who are HIV positive become seriously up rooted with no place to turn to for help."
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