TANZANIA: Churches gather to coordinate action plan against HIV/AIDS
DAR ES SALAAM, 5 September (PLUSNEWS) - A coalition of Finnish and
African churches has been meeting in Dar es Salaam over the past week
to try and pool resources and create a strategy in the battle against
The network, known as Churches United in the Struggle against
HIV/AIDS in Southern and Eastern Africa (CUAHA), was established last
year and is now drawing up plans for practical ways of curbing the
spread of HIV/AIDS and caring for those living with the HI virus.
"This is a pandemic that everyone has to fight together, and a suc-
cessful struggle is one that breaks the barriers between the views of
the churches," CUAHA chairwoman Birgitta Rantakari told journalists
"It is important we overcome our differences and help all the 'people
of the church'," she said, highlighting the fact that Lutheran, Pen-
tecostal, Catholic and Orthodox churches were all part of the net-
The initiative, which is largely funded by the Finish Ministry for
Foreign Affairs, has concentrated on five focal areas CUAHA believes
can benefit from the network's resources, experience and contacts.
These are the theology and ethics of HIV/AIDS; the caring ministry;
education and training; information and communication; and network-
Its members acknowledged that there was a need to overcome the
churches' initial reluctance to tackle HIV/AIDS.
"When we learned about HIV/AIDS, it is true that churches were
shocked into silence and confusion," Dr Rev Veikko Munyika, CUAH
vice-chairman and General Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Namibia (ELCIN), said. "But we came to realise that we can-
not stand aloof while our people were dying, so we decided to get in-
volved and unite versus a common enemy."
Munyika said the network had been developing materials on ethical and
theological issues, sharing the latest training methods and informa-
tion, and ways of supporting not only HIV-positive people, but also
Regarding the controversy over whether churches should be seen to ad-
vocate the use of condoms, CUAHA said theologians were still discuss-
ing the issue, but Munyika revealed that the organisation had de-
clared they "were not going to stand in the way of anyone or anything
that will combat the disease".
"Condoms are not the only method that is suitable, and if we make it
the single answer, we could find ourselves in trouble," he said. "But
when people are dying like flies, as a theologian, you will be forced
to choose between the lesser of two evils."
CUAHA is targeting HIV/AIDS workers in Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia,
Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania,
Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Among the delegates was Rev Gideon Byanugisha, a representative of
World Vision International and the first priest to declare his HIV-
positive status. He urged other religious leaders to do the same and
be tested so that they could lead by example.
"The church, I think, has a very important role to play, especially
in breaking the silence that surrounds HIV/AIDS; in breaking the
stigma, denial and discrimination; and in fighting through action,"
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