AIDS

Senators Stall Bush's AIDS Relief

One of the few high points of the Bush administration has been its commitment to aid for Africa -- especially in combating HIV/AIDS. The president recently proposed an increase in funding for PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.) But it's not going anywhere. Why?

Columnist and former presidential speechwriter Michael Gerson answered the question. Seven Republican senators -- Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, Jeff Sessions, Saxby Chambliss, David Vitter, Jim Bunning, and Richard [...]

An Effective Approach to AIDS in Africa

I work in one of the largest slums in Africa - Kibera - located in Nairobi, Kenya. Some years ago, I started St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School to educate young people who have lost either both parents to the AIDS-pandemic, or one parent and the remaining parent is infected. I am proud to say we now have 265 students, and we are supporting another 50 graduates to go on to college.


Kenya and several other countries have made real progress in fighting AIDS with US support. On his [...]

Black Church Leaders Meet on AIDS

More than 150 leading African-American clergy, scho­lars, government officials, and health experts joined in October with the National Black Leadership Commis­sion on AIDS to respond to HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. “The black church is the mainstay institution in the black community,” Deborah Fraser-Howze, president of the NBLC, told National Public Radio. “One in every 50 black men and one in every 160 black women are estimated to be HIV positive.”

Dozens of ministers—including world-renowned pastors T.D. Jakes and Calvin Butts III—reviewed the National Medical Association’s report on HIV/AIDS and drafted new legislation to address the crisis. Working with the Con­gressional Black Caucus, church leaders plan to introduce the National HIV/AIDS Elimi­nation Act in Con­gress in January, calling on President Bush to identify HIV/AIDS in the African-American community as a public health emergency and release emergency funds to fight the epidemic.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2008
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Living with AIDS

The worldwide body of Christ is finally getting its act together to respond to the global pandemic of HIV and AIDS. In ravaged Africa, the church has had no other choice; its congregations are being decimated. Churches in the West are coming to understand that the commandment “Love thy neighbor” did not specify geographical boundaries, and they are increasing outreach programs and partnerships for AIDS ministries.

Christian theologians, on the other hand, have some catching up to do. HIV and AIDS manifest in physical, personal, social, and spiritual catastrophes. The disease’s complexities deserve a nuanced theological re­sponse.

That one has not yet fully been developed in part explains the mixed success of the essays found in Reflecting Theologically on AIDS: A Global Challenge , edited by Robin Gill of the University of Kent. In December 2003, Gill attended a workshop of Christian theologians sponsored by UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS) in Windhoek, Namibia. This workshop fired Gill’s conviction that there needs to be a wider and deeper theological reflection about the challenge of AIDS, so he set about collecting presentations from the workshop along with other essays previously published (though none widely), a mixture of Catholic, Protestant, evangelical, and feminist perspectives.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2008
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Wine for Abundant Life

The Community of Sant´Egidio, a Catholic lay group, is encouraging a glass of good wine with supper. When you buy wine through the Wine for Life program you’ll fight AIDS in Africa with every sip. More than 100 of the best Italian vintners have joined Wine for Life by purchasing round red-and-blue “Wine for Life” stickers for 70 cents each and affixing them to their bottles. When the bottles are bought in stores or restaurants, customers can see that a donation has already been made to Sant’Egidio’s Drug Resour­ces Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition (DREAM) program at work in 10 African countries.

Smaller World. Three European human rights groups and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed a legal complaint in France accusing former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of authorizing torture in Iraq and Guantánamo. If found guilty, Rumsfeld could be arrested when in France.

Golden Goal. Italy’s Roman Catholic bishops have purchased a professional soccer team. With an 80 percent interest in AC Ancona, a third-division soccer team from a city in central Italy, the bishops aim to “moralize soccer,” according to a local Italian newspaper.

Single Serving? “Unmarried women are poised to tip the 2008 election in progressives’ favor,” according to a recent study by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “In an electorate that is hungry for change, this cohort is the hungriest, with 78 percent saying the country is on the wrong track.”

Color Line. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, called on church leaders to “name the sin of racism and lead us in our repentance of it.” Amid increasing public displays of nooses and swastikas and ongoing racial profiling, Hanson urged all Christians to address the “spiritual crisis concerning race relations” in the U.S.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2008
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A Prophetic Call

December 1 is World AIDS Day. Worldwide, 15 million children have lost one or both parents to the AIDS pandemic; in Zimbabwe, one in five children are orphans. Yet in North America, December marks the start of our annual frenzy of conspicuous consumption, and churches often counter the market’s hijacking of our feast day with poor substitutes: charity and triumphalism.

The scripture passages for these weeks do not support our holiday evasions. While sometimes hopeful, the verses are neither cozy nor celebratory. Certainly we find stories of Jesus’ birth, but they come amid news of prisons, lions, vipers, swords, armor, and genocide. The lections’ strongest themes are of justice, violence, and the role of prophets.

Over five Sundays the lectionary takes us through seven books spanning eight centuries, and we engage with some of the best-loved passages in scripture: “A shoot shall come up from the stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1); “a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6); “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness” (Matthew 3:3); and “my soul magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:47). The dominant texts are Isaiah, the book from the Hebrew Bible most quoted in the Greek Testament, and the gospel of Matthew, the book in the Greek Testament that draws most often from the Hebrew Bible. In a complex interplay, the texts read each other, we read the texts, and the texts read us and our times.

Laurel A. Dykstra is a scripture and justice educator living in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is author of Set Them Free: The Other Side of Exodus.

December 2

Hunger and War

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

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Sojourners Magazine December 2007
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'They Are All Our Children'

One of the opening scenes in Angels in the Dust shows waking children, some two to a bed, others with cats curled up beside them, greeting what looks like a chilly day in South Africa. They are some of the 550 children cared for at Boikarabelo, a children’s sanctuary about an hour north of Johannesburg. Half live here full-time; the other half come from surrounding villages for school.

Soon the camera embraces Marion Cloete, the feisty silver-haired woman who runs this sanctuary with her husband, Con, and two daughters. The family gave up their privileged life in Johannesburg 19 years ago (Marion misses water-skiing, Con misses having his own toilet) and used their savings to start Boikarabelo. Their motto is that no one who asks for help is turned away.

It’s a tall order in a country with such high rates of poverty, disease, and HIV/AIDS infections, but the Cloetes and their staff manage with determination, humor, and lots of crying. They feed, clothe, educate, dispense anti-retroviral drugs, buy coffins to bury villagers who have died of AIDS, and beg mothers to let their children come to school. Led by Marion, a trained therapist, they also try to help kids come to terms with what they’ve suffered and lost.

Louise Hogarth, the film’s writer-director, found Boikarabelo in the course of researching virgin rape, the terrible myth that sex with a child will cure a person of HIV/AIDS. Many of the orphanage’s children are victims of that myth, prostituted by their family members for money or raped by strangers. In one scene, Marion sits with Lillian, an irrepressible spirit who appears throughout the film, while Lillian tells her of being raped “when I was young” (she is still young). She told her mother, but her mother didn’t believe her. “It was very painful, Marion,” Lillian said—a statement delivered with such devastating calm that it took my breath away.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2007
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World AIDS Day: A Challenge to 'Speak Life'

On Dec. 1, the world commemorates World AIDS Day, a day in which we pause and remember the 25 million lives lost to the deadly epidemic. The day also challenges us to redouble our efforts to show greater solidarity with the estimated 33 million people worldwide living with HIV. The day's slogan is "Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise". This is a direct appeal to governments, policy makers, and regional [...]

Truth and Consequence

Nicholas Kristof, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, won his second Pulitzer in 2006 for what the judges called "his graphic, deeply reported columns that, at personal risk, focused attention on genocide in Darfur and that gave voice to the voiceless in other parts of the world." Through a combination of humanitarian commitment, fearless reporting, and sheer doggedness, Kristof has brought the stories of poverty-stricken and exploited people to the morning paper and demanded that we care. Sojourners editor-in-chief Jim Wallis interviewed Kristof in January 2007 in Davos, Switzerland.

Jim Wallis: You've identified the big, important moral issues of our time—something few journalists do well. How did you figure it out?

Nicholas Kristof: My journalistic break was covering the Tiananmen Square democracy movement; I was on Tiananmen Square when it was crushed. It was very traumatic for me. We don't know, but probably 500 people were killed.

Over time it also became clear that number-wise it really wasn't such a big deal in the context of all of China. I remember at one point reading that every year in rural China, 3,000 people die in floods and that 700,000 young women and girls are kidnapped and sold. Gradually I began to grope for some way to cover these issues that affect a lot of people but that don't fit into our paradigm of government repression.

Wallis: Those stories didn't make the news.

Kristof: No. I thought that one of our real failings as journalists in China was not adequately covering the "one child" policy. There was a renewed crackdown when I lived in Beijing, and probably no government policy in the world affected more people in a more intimate way than that crackdown against families. It took us a few years to notice because it happened in rural China—we were paying much too much attention to what was going on in the center.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2007
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Bearing Witness

Wearing a fierce gaze and his "HIV POSITIVE" faded red T-shirt, Winstone Zulu came right out and asked Toronto's Globe and Mail Africa correspondent Stephanie Nolen the question. "What are our lives worth?"

His five words touched on the central themes—economic, political, philosophical, theological—that must be considered in any examination of the AIDS crisis in Africa, and the response from the rest of the world it has and has not generated.

Nolen couldn't answer him and avoided his gaze by scribbling in her notebook. Zulu may as well have been asking on behalf of the 28 people profiled in Nolen's book, 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa, or for the 28 million people in sub-Saharan Africa estimated to be infected with HIV. Each has every right to expect an answer to that question from a world that has turned its back for too long.

In 28, Nolen approaches the difficult questions by telling the stories of an array of people affected by AIDS. There's Tigist, an Ethiopian teenager who has been raising her younger brother Yohannes on her own since their mother died of AIDS. She paints her toenails delphinium blue, lies awake at night worrying about money for school fees and more lentils, and tries to avoid the men approaching her for sex while promising rent money. Pontiano Kaleebu works as a virus researcher in Entebbe, Uganda, searching for an AIDS vaccine. On a good day, when he's feeling optimistic, he says it's at least another 10 years away. And there's Botswana's Miss HIV Stigma Free 2005, Cynthia Leshomo, photographed with one hand on her hip and the other draped down her thigh in the manner of beauty queens everywhere. Their stories, Zulu's story, and 24 more make the issue much more personal and much less theoretical.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2007
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