The aids epidemic is so widespread in some countries that U.S. officials fear it could undermine economies, destabilize governments, threaten military establishments and create other regional problems. Here are a few indications of the magnitude of the problem—with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa, where the epidemic is worse that anywhere else in the world:
South Africa has the world’s second largest AIDS epidemic (in gross numbers). Its neighbor, Zimbabwe, ranks first. During the past ten years, while AIDS has come under control in central African countries with far fewer resources, the disease has gone out of control in South Africa, in the richest, most cosmopolitan nation in the whole sub-Saharan region.
The choice between preventing AIDS by teaching abstinence or by distributing condoms is a false choice, Democratic senator Barack Obama of Illinois said to a mostly evangelical conference held at the southern California megachurch founded by pastor-author Rick Warren.
Ten years ago, the World Council of Churches said the AIDS pandemic “exposes the complicity and complacency of churches, challenging them to be better involved, more active, and more faithful.” As World AIDS Day arrived December 1, religious leaders were cautiously optimistic that the moral and political will to fight the pandemic is finally being mobilized.
More than 300 religious leaders have signed up to form a new network of Muslim and Christian groups from 20 Arab countries, responding as a “united force” to the mounting prevalence of HIV/AIDS in their region.
The First Network of Arab Religious Leaders Responding to AIDS was launched in Cairo on November 9 under the acronym CHAHAMA.