“We stand in solidarity with people living with HIV”: Jesuits in Africa on World AIDS Day

On the occasion of World AIDS Day marked December 1 since 1988, members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Africa have, in a collective statement, expressed solidarity “with all the people living with HIV” amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the statement issued December 1 by the leadership of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), the members of the Clergy and their collaborators describe the coronavirus pandemic as “an added burden for people living with HIV” in Africa.

“The Society of Jesus (Jesuits and collaborators) in Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) stand in solidarity with all the people living with HIV (PLHIV)” the Jesuits say on the day dedicated to raising awareness about the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease.

They add in reference to HIV, “We remember all those who have lost their lives to the virus. May their souls rest in peace.”

“This year’s commemoration occurs in a particular context. The whole world is profoundly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted health systems and severely impacted lives, in particular those who are already subjected to some underlying conditions including HIV/AIDS,” JCAM members further say.


“Undeniably, the new crisis of COVID-19 is an added burden for people living with HIV, especially in Africa where the public health system is ill-equipped,” the Jesuits in Africa and Madagascar observe in their December 1 message shared with ACI Africa.

They continue, “The guidelines proposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus aggravate an already fragile economic base of households, weakens social support systems and delivery of life-saving essential services, and leaves PLHIV more exposed and more vulnerable.”

“Even though we are in the middle of a new global public health emergency, it is critical not to let our guards down in the combat against HIV/AIDS, because the war is far from over,” the members of JCAM further say.

They note that since the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, 75.7 million people have become infected. Citing UNAIDS 2020, the Jesuits say that those who have lost their lives due to AIDS-related illnesses number 32.7 million people. Meanwhile, millions bear the impact of the disease on their families, the Jesuits in Africa and Madagascar further say.

Reflecting on this year’s theme, “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility,” the members of JCAM note that “solidarity, is a condition for our collective success.”

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The theme, they further note, “reminds us of our common responsibility towards one another.”

“Pope Francis has spoken of the importance of solidarity in the context of crisis and underscored the critical component of facing crisis together in order to emerge from it better and stronger. He reminds us that we either do it together, all of us, in solidarity, or it is never done,” they add.

In their collective message signed by JCAM President, Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, the Jesuits make reference to “the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) of the Society of Jesus.”

The UAPs, they say, “enjoin all to walk with the excluded in society, that is people who are vulnerable, weak, and marginalized by social and physical diseases, including HIV/AIDS.”

“Jesuits and collaborators in Africa and Madagascar continue to give serious attention to the AIDS epidemic and its implications for the community. The presence of African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) since 2002, as the continental body coordinating Jesuit responses to HIV/AIDS, is a concrete testimony to our solidarity and shared responsibility,” they add.


They go on to highlight some progress in the interventions in Africa saying, “On the positive side, we look back and acknowledge the tremendous achievements in the fight against the epidemic – thanks to the generosity, resilience, and tireless efforts by governments, international organizations, civil societies, religious organizations and communities.”

“It is encouraging that a united global initiative has recorded gains in HIV testing and treatment with the result that 81% of people living with HIV know their status, and an estimated 25.4 million of the 38.0 million people living with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy by the end of 2019, thus averting 12.1 million AIDS-related deaths since 2010 (UNAIDS, 2020),” the Jesuits note.

“As we come together to mark the 2020 World AIDS Day, Jesuits and collaborators in Africa understand that in times of a health crisis of such magnitude, it is never about "us" and "them". Rather, we form one body in Christ” the members of JCAM say making reference to St. Paul’s letters.

They continue, “AJAN and all Jesuits and collaborators in Africa join our voices to those of the global family in reaffirming our commitment to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.” 

“While it sounds ambitious, we believe that it is possible if we act in solidarity and assume our responsibility,” the say and citing the Gospel according to Luke, add, “With God nothing is impossible.”

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The members of JCAM implore, “May God continue to strengthen us as we struggle through the crisis of COVID-19. May God grant us the grace of greater solidarity and responsibility towards our sisters and brothers who are most disadvantaged by the pandemic, particularly those affected by and living with HIV.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.