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Statement on the Launch of AJAN, the African Jesuit AIDS
10 December 2002, Lomé, Togo

54 years ago on 10 December, the nations signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in New York, and today in Lomé, together we publicly launch
the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN).

HIV/AIDS is not just an illness, but a much bigger human reality. So we should turn to human rights, the basic and universally-recognised minimum standards which
help to guarantee human life but which AIDS itself threatens. The struggle against AIDS must be based on human rights. That is why 10 December seems the right day to launch AJAN with the blessing of the
Church in Togo, in the presence of Catholic university students from all over Africa, and with the support of representatives of UNAIDS.

AJAN is an initiative taken by the Major Superiors of the Society
of Jesus in Africa and Madagascar (JESAM). In 2001 a survey identified examples of HIV/AIDS ministry underway in several Jesuit Provinces in Africa: educating young people about prevention, home-based
care for the ill, pastoral work for orphans and bereft families, medical and social services, research, writing, and popular education. In June 2002 in Abidjan, JESAM decided to intensify the struggle
against AIDS in the twenty-five African countries where there are Jesuits, by setting up the Network as an important shared priority and work in common.

JESAM mandates the Network to help Jesuits and
others to serve those with HIV/AIDS as well as their families, those who assist them, and their communities; to educate for responsibility and prevention; to give Christian testimony and raise the voice
in Africa and internationally; and to act in the name of the Society of Jesus.

The AIDS crisis is not just medical; it is radically linked with poverty, injustice, inequalities, ignorance, migration
and culture. HIV/AIDS drains African countries of their most precious resource: their people. When the youth is is lost to a debilitating and deadly disease, our nations are ever less likely to develop
economically, maintain a vibrant culture and sound education, enjoy good governance or show respect for fundamental human rights.

Even though the number of HIV-infected people is staggering, the stigma
associated with AIDS impels many of us to deny its impact on our lives and to ignore the need to modify our behaviour. By doing so we undermine efforts to prevent the spread of AIDS. Facing AIDS compels
us to look anew at core values and fundamental relationships between men and women in societies that are often neither just nor stable.

Our response must be truly evangelical. When Jesus begins to
preach the Good News, his anointing and mission are “to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke
4:16ff) and as His followers we engage in the struggle to prevent and stop the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the continent.

Everyone agrees on both the urgency and the immensity of the task, and so as
AJAN co-ordinator I solicit your prayer, concern and support in every way possible, from today when AJAN makes its début until that day when AIDS is over.

Michael Czerny, S.J.
Co-ordinator of AJAN

Responding to the HIV/AIDS Pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa

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