It has been more than 20 years since the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) began to appear and Andrew Ignatieff is hoping that General Synod 2004 will be a turning point in the church’s response to this important health issue.
The executive director of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) is organizing a half-day presentation on HIV/AIDS that includes a speech from Stephen Lewis, who was appointed in 2001 by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as his special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa.
The UN Anglican Com-munion observer, Archdeacon Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuata-galoa-Matalavea, will respond on behalf of the Anglican Communion.
“(Mr. Lewis) will challenge the church,” said Mr. Ignatieff in an interview. Although it is separately-incorporated, PWRDF is the Anglican Church of Canada’s international disaster relief and development organization.
“I would like to see a discussion on the floor of General Synod. There needs to be an expression of will (to engage with the issue) on the part of General Synod,” he said. “It’s been asked, ?Why are we dealing with an issue that affects homosexuals?'” he said.
While HIV/AIDS was first diagnosed in significant numbers among gay men, the disease has become a broadly-based health crisis, especially in Africa where some 26 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 are infected. The fund has begun an awareness and fundraising campaign under the theme Partnership for Life/For a Generation Without AIDS.
The fund has been working for years with community and health organizations in developing countries that help people with HIV/AIDS. In addition, over the next four years, PWRDF has pledged to support community-led projects to help people affected by HIV/AIDS and raise awareness and deepen involvement of Canadian Anglicans in issues related to HIV/AIDS. In addition to 2003 bequest income of $1 million, it hopes to raise an additional $1 million to increase the capacity to respond to partners’ initiatives.
Mr. Ignatieff noted that HIV/AIDS is a “social, political and moral challenge” in Canada, where medication can prolong life but discrimination still exists. HIV/AIDS is a “very serious problem” in aboriginal communities, where infection rates are thought to be higher than that of the general population, he said.
(For more on the HIV/AIDS campaign, see the PWRDF Web site at www.pwrdf.org.)