CRWRC Affirms Link Between AIDS and Injustice
Limuru Kenya . 7--Without treating justice, there is no treatment of HIV/AIDS.
That’s the bottom line after 56 staff and partners from around the world met together for the CRWRC Africa Convergence on HIV/AIDS, Feb. 12-14 in Limuru, Kenya.
“AIDS and justice are inextricably linked, so much so that action on justice will be action against the epidemic,” said Ludfine Anyango Okeyo, National HIV/AIDS coordinator for Action Aid International, Kenya in a speech given at the convergence. “The more HIV/AIDS the less justice. The more justice the less HIV/AIDS.”
Anyango Okeyo strongly advocated for agencies like CRWRC engaged in HIV/AIDS work to address the underlying causes of the epidemic, which she identified as poverty, gender disparity, stigma and discrimination, and global economic structure and practices.
For three days, that is just what CRWRC did. Guest speakers, workshops, case studies and discussions provided opportunities for staff to consider CRWRC’s current approach to HIV/AIDS field work, particularly from a justice perspective.
“Every aspect of the program was part of a process that led us to draw some strategic conclusions about our justice and HIV/AIDS work”, said Karen Bokma, CRWRC social justice coordinator. “We’ve known for a long time the various injustices that contribute to the pandemic. The difference is that we now have some recommendations on how best to address them.”
While no one at the convergence denied sexual behaviour as a cause for HIV/AIDS, it was clear CRWRC has a unified view on the aggravating nature of several justice issues that could work together against any human being, whether African, Asian or North American.
“In terms of knowing where to go from here, this is key: While HIV/AIDS is a moral issue, it is as much or more an issue of gender, socio-economic condition, stigma and the global economy,” concluded Andrew Ryskamp, CRWRC director.
“We need to stop looking at HIV as a problem that people deserve for their actions,” added Arianne Folkema, program advisor for CRWRC Uganda. “”We need to look at root causes, mercy and grace.”
For women like Pastor Patricia Sawo of ANERELA+, an African network for religious leaders personally living with HIV/AIDS, mercy is coveted from her own community. “It is not the condition that hurts most,” she explained, “but the stigma and discrimination that hurts.”
For North American Christians, it’s the truth that stings.
“The church must admit that the body of Christ has HIV,” urged Anyango Okeyo. “The church has to show it is on our side.”