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Archbishop of Canterbury on World AIDS Day

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01 December 2011

The Archbishop of Canterbury has recorded a video message for World AIDS Day in which he talks about the part sexual violence plays in the spread of HIV, calling it ‘one of the most shameful facts of our day’.

Dr Williams recorded the video message during a recent visit to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo which he describes as having been at ‘the epicentre of a great deal of appalling violence in recent years.’ He talks specifically about the use sexual violence as a tool of war - something which is used to ‘humiliate and subdue others’ and the extent to which the people in the DRC have suffered from this particular type of brutality, which has become endemic in many communities.

In his message Dr Williams highlights the crucial role that the Church has played in supporting survivors of such abuse, and especially in combating the stigma that they so often face in their own communities as a result of this violence:

“Trauma is something which cannot be overcome overnight but when people feel they’ve been abandoned by families, by communities, because of the shame and stigma of HIV/AIDS, the church in this part of Congo has been there for them. For these people, who have been abused systematically, been raped, violated, abducted often at the youngest of ages – for these people, the church has been the family that mattered.”

Churches, and other faith communities, need to show leadership to end a culture of silence and fulfil their potential to help reverse the prevalence and devastating impact of sexual violence. In praising the vital work of the Anglican Church of Congo, the Archbishop expresses his hope that the campaign against sexual violence and associated stigma will continue both in the DRC as well as in other parts of the world:

“As we seek to confront the terrible scandal of sexual violence as one of the causes of HIV and AIDS, let’s hope and pray that communities like the churches here will continue to fight as hard as they can against the stigmatising and marginalising that so reduce human dignity.” 

In marking World AIDS Day 2011, Dr Williams also raises his concern about current reports of a decline in available funding resources which will threaten the recent and remarkable progress achieved by the global AIDS response. He urges the international community to uphold its funding commitments to see this progress not only sustained but accelerated to halt and reverse the spread of AIDS.

The video can be viewed here: