wide acceptance at the bi-annual International Conference for AIDS and Sexually transmitted diseases in Africa (ICASA) held in December in Abuja, Nigeria. The conference theme “HIV/AIDS and the family,” echoed a growing sentiment among world leaders that families are indeed the answer to defeating HIV/AIDS in Africa. “Families are the first line of defence against HIV/AIDS.” Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General. 60% of sub-Saharan Africans attend regular church services making the Christian church with its inherent principles of morality and community outreach an effective platform by which to reach the people of sub-Saharan Africa.
5000 people travelled to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, for ICASA. They represented governments, the United Nations, international organizations, community groups and leaders in church and society. They were scientists, sociologists, doctors and AIDS activists; they were also fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. “HIV/AIDS and the Family” was chosen as the conference theme because families carry the greatest burden of HIV/AIDS and are the best hope for an effective response to the pandemic.
ICASA met to seek “how best families can respond to the challenges posed by AIDS by enhancing the culturally based African family network with its inherent attributes of concern, love and caring”. (Professor Femi Soyinka, ICASA President).
Opening the conference, the President of Nigeria, Chief Olesugun Obasanjo, said “the theme of the conference has more contemporary relevance than ever for the development and sustenance of Africa”.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela said “It is appropriate that ‘HIV/AIDS and the Family’ is the theme of our conference. As a father there is no shame in acknowledging that one’s own child has died from AIDS. The only way we can confront the epidemic is if we as Africans stand proudly together to address the greatest crisis confronting our beloved continent.”
Implementation of the Year of the Family
In response to the growing call for family-based HIV/AIDS intervention part of Zimbabwe’s involvement in the African Year of the Family 2006 Family Impact, an NGO based in Bulawayo, is working in conjunction with local churches to offer training in several community programs such as Positive Parenting for adults and orphan caregivers; Freedom Unlimited HIV/AIDS education for industrial workers and camps for rural and urban youths. The African Year of the Family 2006 is a Christian HIV/AIDS initiative that aims to raise the importance of families and restore family to the level of prominence that it once enjoyed across Africa as a defence against the disease. The year will involve organizations, schools and churches running family-focused activities and community celebrations of family through fun days, appreciation days and increased focus on the family unit as the greatest institution of social welfare for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
Church leaders and members of the local business, education and health sector met in Bulawayo in January to discuss the city’s response and involvement in the continent-wide celebration. Members of the Harare steering committee are meeting to organize a city launch in early March. The launch will be followed by a series of week long train-the-trainer courses during which couples from churches across the country will be trained to facilitate the family-orientated sessions in their own communities. This initiative forms a major part of the campaign and ensures its sustainability and impact at grassroots level.
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