July 28, 2012. (Romereports.com)
Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, almost 60 million people have been infected with HIV and 25 million people have died due to AIDS.
The majority of these deaths come from Sub-Saharan African.
There are many religious based organizations working to prevent its spread. But few have the reach and physical presence on the African continent like the African Jesuit AIDS Network, known as AJAN.
This group of Jesuits is now present in 30 African countries
after being founded in 2002. Its founder and first director is the Canadian priest Michael Czerny who says there are many levels to combating the virus.Fr. Michael Czerny
Founder, AJAN“There are many dimensions to AIDS impact on a community and so first of all you need to work with those who are vulnerable but not necessarily infected, you work with those who are infected, those who've then passed to the stage of AIDS, and then to all of those who are affected by AIDS.”
The stance of the Catholic Church against the use of condoms has been highly criticized by observers of the AIDS epidemic. However, at the same time the Church is one of the largest groups providing care to victims.Fr. Michael Czerny
Founder, AJAN“We explain the Church's position which is a much more holistic, and reasonable, and effective approach which doesn't cut corners and which doesn't enhance or promote disrespect between people.”
Pregnant mothers infected with HIV can receive a shot to ensure the virus won't be passed on to the child during birth. The shot costs around 100 dollars compared to the estimated 300,000 dollars a government spends throughout the lifetime of someone living with HIV.
Father Czerny notes that the human side of living with AIDS in Africa is removed when victims are turned into numbers. Fr. Michael Czerny
Founder, AJAN“I think from the outside we tend to use many zeros, we talk about huge numbers and alarming trends and we lose touch or we never get into touch for what it means for the individual, for the family, for the community, and finally for the country.”
These Jesuits are aware that the call for more assistance to AIDS victims is not something new. They fear that it's losing importance on the agenda of world priorities. However, they continue their services of counseling, home-based care, education, as well as economic and medical support.