The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) is a religious order of men in the Catholic Church, founded in 1540 by St Ignatius of Loyola. Today the Society of Jesus, popularly known as the Jesuits, numbers over 20,000 members and serves worldwide in many different kinds of ministries: education, parishes, spirituality, social justice, communications, research and writing – and also in the important and relatively new field of AIDS.
The Society of Jesus is organized in nearly 90 Provinces and Regions, and these are gathered together in ten Assistancies: four in Europe, three in the Americas, two in Asia, and one in Africa. The Assistancy of Africa and Madagascar includes eight Provinces and two Regions. The Conference coordinating the ten Provinces and Regions of the African Assistancy is called JESAM (Jesuit Superiors of Africa and Madagascar) with its office in Nairobi. It was JESAM that set up the African Jesuit AIDS Network in 2002 to coordinate and encourage the Jesuit contribution to the struggle against AIDS in the continent.