We call upon the Black Church, to perform its historic role and to organize the Black community in this country and to join with faith communities in Africa to address this crisis.
While HIV/AIDS is a major catastrophe in Africa, the disease is also a major crisis in the African-American community. These efforts will be directed to both the AIDS crisis in the U.S. and Africa.
We must focus on building a collaborative and interactive relationship with various segments of African society. After revisions and discussions, the recommendations will form a strategic plan of action by civil society (working with governments) to surgically address the AIDS crisis. This plan calls for building an international African constituency to address this issue of AIDS and development in both the U.S. and Africa.
The primary goal of this effort is the establishment of a national and international working group which will enable organizations to implement an agreed upon set of policies.
• We call upon Black churches, of and for the poor, to organize financial and material support campaigns for the victims of the AIDS crisis in both the U.S. and Africa. We shall meet with relief organizations to plan how we can work together to surgically identify the hardest hit areas for these resources. Such a planning process will invariably entail a 20 to 40 year time frame.
Black churches must be encouraged to take on the responsibility of educating their members on the AIDS crisis in Africa and adopting a family or church impacted by the crisis.
We call upon Black church leaders, intellectuals and activists, to attend a national summit on the AIDS crisis in Africa, hosted by Bishop Charles E. Blake at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, Los Angeles, California, to be announced early in the year 2000.
Black churches in the U.S. and other groups must stand in solidarity with African AIDS victims, which means they must pressure pharmaceutical companies to release African governments from intellectual property rights claims on drugs so that local companies can cheaply produce the life-prolonging drugs.
• Through the Black church, African-American political leaders and other national leaders must be challenged to fight for greater U.S. financial and material resources to respond to the AIDS crisis. The U.S. response to the crisis must become an important election year theme.
• We call upon the World Bank and other international lending institutions to provide debt forgiveness to African countries. Funds that were used to service debt (loans often negotiated with incompetent or corrupt African dictators) should be channeled into a special fund, with financial oversight, to address the AIDS epidemic.
• Corrupt African leaders that have enriched themselves, to the tune of billions of U.S. dollars, and at the expense of our impoverished brothers and sisters must be encouraged through pressures from the international community, to contribute to this special fund. The international community must apply sanctions and pressure to banks that provide financial shelter to corrupt leaders.
• We call for a meeting of Black church leaders, intellectuals and grassroots activists, and the African ambassadorial community. Such a meeting will be scheduled to coordinate a multilateral response to the crisis. We will work to establish a liaison with UNAIDS, and the World Bank/IMF to coordinate this effort.
• We call for a delegation consisting of Black religious, medical, civic and financial organizations to be convened to conduct a needs assessment of countries hardest hit by the AIDS crisis. A report from this mission will be issued which clearly delineates the material, medical, financial and moral support needed from the Black community to various countries and communities in Africa.
• African-American children and youth will be enlisted in the struggle to provide more resources for communities in Africa. Churches and civil society organizations must encourage abstinence and fidelity and provide resources for youth leaders to educate their colleagues and peers about the AIDS crisis and to develop programs to provide material support to young victims of HIV/AIDS in Africa as well as to encourage abstinence.
• African-American organizations must form strategic alliances with African women's organizations to develop a strategy to address this crisis from a female perspective. Cultural norms often place women and children at a heightened risk for contracting HIV. More than half of all new HIV infections in Africa south of the Sahara are among women and 80% of the 14 million HIV-positive women of childbearing age worldwide reside in Africa. Special programmatic emphasis will be placed on the impact of this crisis on women and children.
Revised December 12, 1999
Senior Policy Advisor, Seymour Institute
Director, NCEDFWE-BRITS Solidarity Project
PROFESSOR EVA T. THORNE
REVEREND EUGENE F. RIVERS, 3d
Founder and President, Seymour Institute
Pastor, Azusa Christian Community