With the observance of the World AIDS Day on December 1, church leaders of Africa are calling for the Catholic church to focus on the young people living with HIV in Aftrica. The Union of Catholic Asian News reported that children living with the virus are facing challenges such as stigma, inadequate health services, and even misinformation from social media.

Father Ismael Matambura, the director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network shares the sentiment, saying that there is a need for the churches to take action. He added that it is already hard for the church to identify these young people because they often times conceal it because of the stigma.

The African Catholic Church and Youth with HIV

In the article, the father said that if the church were to put the issue in the center of its services, it could reduce the burden of the virus in the continent.  

Teresa Odhiambo, a lay leader of the Kisumu Archdiocese commented that the problem is that the youth are often overlooked by the church as its concern is families and married couples. She added that there are indeed youth with HIV that are secretive and fearful who needs the support and counseling of the church.

The article said that according to the World health Organization, people aged 15-24 makes up 1/3 of new infections in the continent. It added that females are three times more likely to have it in sub-Saharan Africa which could be attributed to factor such as intimate partner violence.

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African Jesuit AIDS Network

To face the issue, the church has the African Jesuit AIDS Network which provides services in over 16 African countries. According to the network's page, it is a 'faith-based organization established in June 2002 by the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM).'

It provides programs and campaigns that are dedicated to teaching people on how to prevent HIV and AIDS. This includes the AJAN HIV and AIDS Prevention Programme for the Youth or AHAPPY Generation, a recent program launched this year aimed at educating younger generations.

Apart from the network, there's also the Congregation of Our Lady Mother of Mercy who has been tackling the issue since 1982.

World AIDS Day

On the World AIDS Day page, it says that it is the first global health day that takes palace December 1, every year. It adds that it is an opportunity for the people of the world to show a united front against HIV, support those living with it, and commemoration those who died from an AIDS-related illness.

According to HIV.gov, the U.S. Government's theme for the year is 'Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV.' It is a call for people to unite globally to end the disparities and inequities that prevents testing, prevention, and healthcare access.

In an article for the commemoration, it said that ever since it started 34 years ago, the world has developed innovations in HIV care, treatment, and prevention. It added that even with all that, there are still 1.5 million new cases of HIV every year. This is caused by several factors such as stigma, discrimination, and other structural reasons.

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