No one is invisible in God’s eyes: Archbishop’s blog on World AIDS Day
The Archbishop of Canterbury published a blog marking World AIDS Day on Monday 2nd December, which few people have remarked on – it was brought to my attention by a message on the SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) list because it had been reported in Zambia.
The Archbishop had recently discussed the issue of HIV/AIDS with the Archbishops of Southern Africa and Burundi, and the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé. He said it was inspiring hearing how churches in Burundi and Southern Africa are responding both to HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. In Burundi the Anglican Church is working with local communities to overcome violence against women and girls.
In his discussion with the Archbishops, they reflected on three vital aspects of the work on HIV/AIDS. The first is the importance of equal access to treatment for all in need, including in the poorest and most marginalised communities. The second is the huge danger posed by gender-based sexual violence, and particularly in areas of conflict.
The third matter, he wrote, is perhaps the most sensitive. “This is the importance of ensuring that no groups – and here I’m clearly thinking about LGTB groups – face discrimination which creates barriers to accessing testing and treatment.”
I’m struck by two things. Firstly, the Archbishop specifically states the importance of ensuring that LGBT groups do not face discrimination which creates barriers to HIV/AIDS testing and treatment. I think Archbishop Justin is sending a general message about the way discrimination, often underpinned by Christian teaching and attitudes, affects the lives of LGB&T people, not only in terms of sexual health but the whole of their emotional, relational and spiritual lives.
Secondly, the Archbishop chose to make his comments about HIV/AIDS in the context of meeting two African Archbishops. This is an issue of massive significance in Africa and elsewhere. Because same-sex activity across Africa is pushed underground by the intense prejudice in many countries, the level of risk is much higher for LGB&T people.
The Archbishop said Churches have a ‘vital’ role to play in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He has deliberately incorporated the impact on LGBT people and implies that the Churches also have a vital role to play in overcoming prejudice against a group of people marginalized and vilified by many in the Church.