PLENARY PRESENTATION BY DR CHRISTOPH BENN REPRESENTING THE COMMISSION OF THE CHURCHES ON INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OF THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES JUNE 27, 2001
Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The World Council of Churches would like to express its sincere appreciation to the United Nations for organizing this important special session on HIV/AIDS and its gratitude for being allowed to present this statement.
I am standing here for Rev. Gideon Byamugisha, an Anglican priest from Uganda who is living with HIV/AIDS. He was supposed to speak on behalf of our delegation but unfortunately today he fell ill and is unable to be with us. I would like us all to remember Rev. Gideon in our thoughts and prayers.
This incidence demonstrates again how this disease affects countless individuals around the world. It also shows that the churches are themselves in the midst of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Many in the church family are ill, infected or affected. There is no division between us and them.
HIV/AIDS is an illness that violates God's will for His creation. Recognition of and respect for the dignity of each human person, regardless of circumstance, is foundational to all of our responses and actions.
This dignity is best respected by protecting the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and promoting an attitude of care and solidarity which rejects all forms of stigmatization and discrimination. We must fight HIV/AIDS and not its victims.
All persons infected and affected by HIV/AIDS should be accepted in their own communities and receive support and care, including access to treatment and the churches are committed to use all its resources to support these efforts.
High risk and vulnerable groups (e.g. persons with drug dependencies, prisoners, refugees, migrant populations, internally displaced persons, people of homosexual orientation) require particular attention and accompaniment fully respecting their essential human rights.
The particular risks of women must be addressed through prevention, care and treatment. More fundamentally, the social, political and economic structures and systems, which create their vulnerability, must be challenged. The particular needs and risks of youth, including those not yet affected, must be addressed with urgency.
Out of respect for life, proven methods of preventing HIV/AIDS, including abstinence, e.g. in the form of delayed sexual activity in young people, faithfulness in sexual relationships and the use of condoms, must be promoted and supported. I would like to dismiss the widespread myth that all churches and religious organizations are against the use of condoms. The WCC with its 340 member churches all around the world has adopted an official policy acknowledging the use of condoms as one option in the prevention of HIV transmission. …