HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa reached the level of a pandemic in 1994.
Here are some statistics to consider:
For a nation, a pandemic means facing the serious risk of the loss of two productive generations, and with them, the slow but inexorable erosion of the fabric that knits together stable societies and nations. The average life expectancy may drop precipitously, but might not seem real for a generation or more.
Teachers, nurses, miners, farmers, doctors, mothers and fathers begin to disappear from society. With this loss, community memories, social stability and productivity diminish and eventually disappear. For nations struggling with development – as many within the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (CPSA) are – a pandemic means the potential and actual loss of the promised future.
For the church, a pandemic means confronting the relentless progression of a crippling social and spiritual force and from that place assisting people in making sense of what is often beyond human control. After 20 years of silence, the Anglican Communion has declared, “HIV/AIDS is not a punishment from God.”
Nonetheless, we are still challenged to interpret the will of God when so many have died of a preventable sexually transmitted infection. Over the next decade it is estimated that as many as 750 000 of our 10 million baptised church members will die from the effects of AIDS. How many families will be destroyed? How many churches will withstand this massive assault of death? Our church has HIV/AIDS, but what are we to do?
In response to this crisis, in March 2001, Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan, the Most Reverend Njongonkulu Ndungane, was given the mandate to develop a communion-wide understanding of the scope of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.
His first task was to bring together the leadership of the African churches through the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) to determine the breadth and scope of this pandemic, as well as the potential responses to be made. The All Africa Anglican Conference on HIV/AIDS was held in Boksburg, South Africa, in August 2001.