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Church must address the whole person to fight AIDS, say African bishops

.- The Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) has said bringing God to the hearts of men and women, so that they believe in Him, in an effort to care for the whole person is a requirement “for combating AIDS, truly confronting its causes and curing the sick with due attention and love.”

In a statement signed by the president of SECAM, Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, the bishops expressed their concern over the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  “The statistics, by themselves, tell a devastating story.  According to this year’s report by UNAIDS, 24.5 million of the 774 million people who live in sub-Saharan Africa live with HIV/AIDS,” they said.

"Despite good educational efforts,” the bishops noted, “many people remain ignorant about AIDS or still deny it. Despite greater availability of treatment, more people are dying. And despite the services offered, many infected and ill people are still crushed under the most desperate of circumstances."

Echoing Pope Benedict XVI's teaching this year, the Catholic bishops of Africa "encourage everyone to consider the deeper causes of the pandemic. It is not just medical. A public health approach is necessary but insufficient. As the Church's mission is to address the whole person in all dimensions of life, we feel the special responsibility to revitalize the strong moral values in our societies. That is what will lead to a true, sustainable solution to AIDS in Africa."

The bishops' statement commended efforts that have so far been made in fighting the pandemic, but urged those who have pledged to provide needed resources to keep their promise.

"On our part, within the means available to us, we will continue to offer care which is competent, loving and holistic. We will educate and preach tirelessly. We will continue to challenge our fellow Africans of every age and condition to exercise personal and communal responsibility. We will continue to invite especially our leaders, in the words of the Holy Father, to "a shared commitment to justice and love," the bishops said.


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