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Ugandan cleric urges churches to push governments on AIDS

30. November 2011

    By Fredrick Nzwili
    Nairobi, Kenya, 29 November (ENInews)--African churches need to urge
    governments to do more to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, according to a
    prominent Ugandan Anglican cleric who was the first religious leader on
    the continent to declare publicly his HIV-positive status.

    "The church is doing something, but if it were enough the pandemic would
    have gone away. The church has not challenged the governments to put
    money where the problem is," Canon Gideon Byamugisha, 59, said in an
    interview with ENInews in Nairobi, where he spoke from 22 to 24 November
    on HIV/AIDS prevention.

    In a 2001 statement called the Abuja Declaration, African governments
    pledged to allocate at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets to
    healthcare as part of the fight against HIV/AIDS. Ten years on, most have
    not met the commitment, although average health expenditures in all 52
    African countries increased to 9.0 per cent in 2007 from 8.8 per cent in
    2001, according to a 2010 report by The Global Fund.

    Byamugisha said governments should allocate resources to end stigma,
    preventable AIDS deaths and related illnesses. "We [churches] have not
    asked those campaigning for the presidency to show their manifestos on
    how they propose to engage the disease," said Byamugisha who co-founded
    the African Network of Religious Leaders Living with and Personally
    Affected by HIV and AIDS (ANERELA+) in 2002.

    "We have not seen archbishops saying, 'Mr. President, we want to see a
    government budget that allocates money on promoting safe practices,'" he

    With no single preventive approach for the epidemic, Byamugisha recently
    began advocating against the shame and discrimination that often affect
    those with HIV/AIDS and for increased testing. "They get married, and
    they produce children as if everything is normal. That's the first place
    to start, if you want to reach zero infection. We must put money in
    fighting stigma so that people get tested," he said.

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The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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