The Brief: World AIDS Day 2022 Celebration
In this special edition of AJANEWS issue we basically focus on the celebration of the World AIDS Day 2022 across the Network in Africa to raise awareness on uniting globally to eliminate the disparities and inequities that create barriers to HIV testing, prevention, and access to HIV care. The theme of the AIDS Day is “Equalise! ” This means for us leaving no one behind in putting an end to inequalities!
Today, more than 41 years of fight the world is still losing hundreds of thousands of its members children, young and adults to AIDS. Despite effective HIV treatment and tools to prevent, test, and treat opportunistic infections UNAIDS reports show that the AIDS pandemic took a life every minute, on average, in 2021, with 650 000 AIDS deaths. High infections rate of HIV particularly among young African women and girls in sub- Saharan Africa, where women accounted for 63% of new HIV infections in 2021. Adolescent girls and young women (aged 15 to 24 years) are three times more likely to acquire HIV than adolescent boys and young men of the same age group in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya for instance, National Syndromic Diseases Control Council 2022 reveals an increase in new infections among the adolescents. 52% of new infections occurred among the youth aged 15-29. The same Council reports a daily estimate loss of 6 young people aged 15 to 24 due to AIDS. The country lost 22,373 lives to AIDS in 2021.
If we then come together, in the spirit of Ubuntu, in showing of love and care, then we will protect young people, enable adolescent girls to stay in school, taking care of those affected and infected by this disease, accommodating the vulnerable in the society, protecting them from stigma and violence which is often normalized. The 2nd Universal apostolic preference of the Jesuits, walking with the Excluded; the vulnerable, and those whom society considers worthless gives us a pathway that guarantee those affected and infected with this disease a hopeful future. In the face of existing adversities the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) through the statement from the President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) inside this issue invites us all to develop in us the spirit of Ubuntu, a call to inclusive action of equalization that implies fighting inequalities at all levels with courage, compassion, commitment and care leaving no one behind because “no one is healthy or safe until everybody is healthy or safe.”
Inside this same issue read also about the commemoration of World AIDS Day 2022 by the African Jesuit AIDS Network Secretariat and the celebration in Madagascar where young people are put in the centre of interventions. Kenya rises alarm on the rising cases of syphilis among pregnant women and teenagers by 35% in 3 years. (See World AIDS Day report 2022. More in this issue). In line with celebration of this year’s Global theme, African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) theme is to “Equalise to address inequalities end AIDS and promote lasting wellbeing for All”. Inequalities are observed in various ways regarding medicine manufacturing and distribution, health care facilities, access to medical treatment, testing, etc. Stigma and discrimination of adolescents and other people living with HIV are real in our communities. We cannot expect important changes or ending AIDS by 2025 if those issues are not taken seriously and addressed jointly by all the actors at all levels: administrative, political, socio-economic, cultural, etc. Poverty is another aspect that should not be left out. It constitutes a serious obstacle, drawback factor in the fight against HIV and other diseases. Today we have people living in infra-human conditions! In developing countries, it is growing and its impacts on people’s lives is awful. Part of this sad picture is a result of human decisions and actions. It is heartbreakingly to witness such a situation in 21st century where the world has access to information and huge number of resources! Our society, each one of us we should challenge ourselves and ask what is that we are not doing right? What is wrong with us and our society? Conversion of heart and mind in required of all and each of us.
Yes, we should be grateful of because there is a lot that has been done, but there is still a lot to do. AJAN believes and hopes that together, we will be able to create an HIV-free Africa, a more just and caring African generation full of Hope and Committed to Protect one another and to protect the planet. We hope that no matter what, we will end HIV and its effects on Christ’s faces.
Together we are strong!!
By Matambura Ismael, SJ