Christian faith leaders launch alliance to respond to AIDS in PNG
07 May 2010
Church leaders from 19 Christian denominations in Papua New Guinea (PNG) came together to launch the Christian Leaders Alliance, a network of Christian faith leaders committed to provide an effective response to AIDS in the country. Civil Society, including people living with HIV, Faith based groups, donors and partners in the national response attended the event.
“This is a turning point in the national AIDS response. Having Christian Leaders to jointly come together in addressing AIDS is a major breakthrough, a source of inspiration to all of us in the AIDS community in Papua New Guinea,” said UNAIDS Country Coordinator Tim Rwabuhemba.
During the launch, faith leaders signed a Statement of Commitment to represent their promise in reversing the epidemic in the country. The statement enumerates the ways in which the Christian church can make a lasting difference in helping the country to overcome the epidemic.
This is a turning point in the national AIDS response. Having Christian Leaders to jointly come together in addressing AIDS is a major breakthrough, a source of inspiration to all of us in the AIDS community in Papua New Guinea.
UNAIDS Country Coordinator Tim Rwabuhemba
“The launch and the signing of the statement of commitment is a historic event of great magnitude” said His Excellency the Governor General of PNG, Grand Chief, Sir Paulius Matane in his keynote address while launching the Alliance. Sir Paulius Matane commended the church leaders for taking “bold, strong and courageous steps needed against a formidable adversary such as HIV.”
The new alliance aims to share knowledge, understanding and experience from the various communities to unite efforts for a more effective and inclusive response to AIDS. Through the signing of the agreement, faith leaders seek to establish a new culture of ecumenical cooperation, respecting the uniqueness of their traditions while focusing on shared values of human dignity and human rights.
Faith leaders committed, among other things, to address social, religious, cultural and political norms and practices that perpetuate stigma and discrimination. To that end, they agreed to utilize existing infrastructure and communication networks within their religious communities to disseminate accurate HIV information in the areas of prevention, treatment, care and support.
“We pledge to do more. We will spare no effort to break the silence around HIV,” said the Head of the Roman Catholic Church in PNG and Chair of the Alliance, Archbishop John Ribat.
Sir Peter Barter, Chairperson National AIDS Council, noted that the churches of Papua New Guinea were the stakeholders with the “biggest potential for preventing the spread of HIV in the country. This is because the churches have gained the trust and confidence of affected communities.”
Papua New Guinea makes up the largest share of HIV cases in the Pacific region, growing exponentially from 21% in 1984–1989 to over 99% in 2008. Reported cases in Papua New Guinea total 28,294 but UNAIDS estimates there are 54,000 people living with HIV. It is estimated that by 2012, Papua New Guinea will have a national prevalence rate of 5.07% and a total of 208,714 people will have been infected with HIV.
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