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Lome, 10 December 2002

My dear brothers and sisters,

The peace of Christ!

It would have been a great honour for
me to be with you on this important day that officially launches AJAN – African Jesuit AIDS Network, but other duties equally pressing have unfortunately kept me away. Be assured that I am with
you in spirit and will pray for the success of this day.

The Jesuit Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (JESAM) decided to have a Jesuit network to co-ordinate the various activities
against the AIDS pandemic because they are very well aware of the seriousness of the situation. True they have learnt a lot from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). And one important lesson is that they
have to respond to the neglected and the marginalised; the excluded, people whom nobody would like to take care of.

Today on the African continent AIDS is the biggest threat to the
survival of the African peoples after the slave trade. If nothing is done to stop its spread, it will empty the continent more than the slave trade did. The issue is not only those infected with AIDS
but also those affected by AIDS. Both need attention and care. The approach of AJAN towards this pandemic is multifaceted, addressing the problem from various angles, from cure, prevention and care.

The Society of Jesus in Africa and Madagascar wants to make its contribution together with others in fighting this evil of AIDS. The Society holds that the most effective way of stopping the pandemic is
working towards behaviour change. Unless each and every person changes behaviour the epidemic will continue to spread. Let us be very frank with each other, in matters of sexual morality this means
abstinence. No sex outside marriage. And once in a marriage relationship, to stick to one partner, that is faithfulness. In short, abstinence and faithfulness are the only sure fortress against AIDS.

Another approach will be to work for the reduction of poverty on the continent. AJAN will not be directly involved in poverty reduction as there are other Jesuit organisations already addressing the
issue. Think of the number of young people who have to be on the streets due to poverty and therefore easy victims of AIDS and AIDS transmitters.

Friends, let us not be blind to the
reality under our very noses. Governments claim not to have resources to provide for the basic requirements of their peoples, but strangely the same governments have millions at their disposal to buy
arms of destruction. You are the leaders of tomorrow and must face this contradiction. All I would like to communicate to you is that poverty is one of the major factors that helps spread AIDS.

It is our sincere hope that you already are and will always be agents of change at various levels. Together we shall win this battle, and God, our creator, will grant us the necessary grace and means
towards that victory.

In union of prayers,

Shirima Val, S.J.

Moderator – JESAM

The Response of a Zambian Catholic School to the Challenge of HIV/AIDS
To Love Your HIV+ Neighbour

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