01 December 2003

African Church leaders take HIV tests

Delegates attending a Pan African church assembly in Cameroon have voluntarily taken the AIDS test to dramatise the importance of HIV screening and to fight the stigma associated with the scourge. Their symbolic gesture came ahead of World AIDS Day, which is today.

Last Wednesday, delegates to the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) Eighth General Assembly, reviewed the dire facts and figures, heard testimonies from HIV-positive clergy and laity and adopted a ten-point covenant for fighting the pandemic.

More people than expected went for the on-site testing, as confirmed by the fact that supplies ran out, prompting on-site clinic staff to give others vouchers for the following day. There were 800 leaders representing more than 150 churches and 39 countries at the 2003 Assembly in Younde, between 22-27 November.

"As far as we are concerned, this is war," said Rev Dr Mvume Dandala, AACC General Secretary and leader of South Africa's Methodists. "We declare unequivocally that HIV/AIDS is not the will of God for Africa. The Church must resist a tendency by the pharmaceutical companies to see Africa as an open market for HIV/AIDS drugs because of the virus, prevalence on the continent," he said. He attributed Africa's vulnerability to HIV/AIDS mainly to poverty. 

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