A Seventh-day Adventist leader has reacted to a speech by the executive director of the United Nations AIDS organization pleading for greater action against HIV/AIDS and its impact on communities.
Speaking to the UN Commission on Human Rights on April 3, Peter Piot of UNAIDS said that “in today’s world, AIDS constitutes one of the most pervasive threats to the right to health. And for the millions of people affected by AIDS around the world, AIDS is one of the most pressing causes of stigma and discrimination.” Globally, more than 60 million people worldwide have been infected. Twenty million have died.
Jonathan Gallagher, UN liaison director for the Adventist Church, said AIDS statistics “really hit home.”
“The fact that life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa has dropped from 62 to 47 years just because of AIDS demonstrates its huge impact,” said Gallagher. “To lose 15 years on average from everyone’s life shows the dramatic cost in human suffering and death caused by AIDS.”
Gallagher said there must be more commitment to action in tackling the AIDS pandemic. He notes that the Adventist Church and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency continue to develop projects in many countries to combat both the medical and the societal aspects of AIDS.
Dr. Allan Handysides, health ministries director the Adventist Church, said that he and a team of health professionals have just returned from Africa and Asia. “The vital task is to promote awareness, behavior modification, education and abstinence,” he said. “We visited schools, churches and hospitals, conducting sessions dealing specifically with myths surrounding HIV/AIDS, including cultural issues.”
A seven-part video series produced by the Adventist Church is being broadcast by satellite to 400 downlink sites in southern Africa. These community events are expected to reach at least 250,000 people.
ADRA operates a number of AIDS awareness programs, as well as projects designed to support AIDS sufferers and their families, said Gallagher. The Adventist Church’s hospital and healthcare facilities worldwide also provide direct medical help to HIV/AIDS victims.