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Archbishop highlights importance of HIV AIDS in tackling global poverty

March 05 2012 - At a high-level discussion panel on HIV, Food and Human Rights last week the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, highlighted the importance of HIV and AIDS as a bridge to tackling many issues affecting the world’s poor.

At the meeting at the UNAIDS headquarters in Geneva on February 29 Dr Williams said the subject had far reaching implications.

‘AIDS presents us with a cluster of issues that are not just a question of epidemiology but are a prism through which a whole range of social issues come into sharp focus,’ he said.

‘AIDS can be the key that opens the way to address many other issues such as the role of women, the rights of minorities and food security.’

A renewed approach to human rights was proposed by the Archbishop who reiterated a key message from his public lecture delivered the evening before at the World Council of Churches, that human rights ‘are not an arbitrary set of individual claims but about belonging and mutual recognition.’

While noting that the legal dimension of human rights is not in any sense optional, Dr Williams stated that for laws ‘to have traction they must be rooted in social practice.’ He suggested that the language of human rights ‘needs to be turned around’ so that the emphasis is not only on the role of the state in looking after its people but also the shared rights and responsibilities implied in ‘citizenship.’

Winnie Sseruma, Advocacy and Networks Officer at Christian Aid, welcomed the new language. Speaking from her own perspective as a person living with HIV, she emphasised the ‘need to talk about citizenship and the rights of every person’ as the language of human rights is difficult in many developing countries.

In using these new terms, she suggested, ‘we have to lower our voice in the North or the governments in the South will stop listening.’

But she also underlined the importance for continued funding to be secured so that the progress already made would not be lost.

She said: ‘We need to find the money for HIV treatment.  If we don’t, what we’ve been working on will unravel in front of our eyes.’

Dr Williams concluded the discussion by emphasising the important role faith communities can and should play in building community resilience in addressing the issues. He said: ‘I would hope that, given faith communities are in place before, during and after crises, that they are included and given the help they need to overcome barriers.’

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If you would like further information please contact Joe Ware on 0207 523 2418 or jware @christian-aid.org.

Photo available: UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, Christian Aid Advocacy Officer Winnie Ssanyu Sseruma, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams at UNAIDS offices in Geneva. Credit: UNAIDS/F. Chironi

Notes to Editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the lives they deserve.

2. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. Our report, Poverty Over, explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to end poverty.  Details at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/poverty-over-report.pdf

3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 100 churches and church-related organisations that work together inhumanitarian assistance and development.  Further details at http://www.actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit www.christianaid.org.uk