Forty Years in the Wilderness: End Inequalities to End AIDS

The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the condition of people living with HIV (PLHIVs) and their families. Many have lost their jobs and livelihoods. The economic crisis concretized by unemployment, poverty, and rising prices; and compounded with limited access to health services and education put PLHIVs in the most vulnerable situation, now more than ever. We concur with the UNAIDS statement that “the world is off track from delivering on the shared commitment to end AIDS by 2030, not because of a lack of knowledge or tools to beat AIDS, but because of structural inequalities that obstruct proven solutions to HIV prevention and treatment.” Thus, we need to address and respond to the many challenges vis-a-vis these structural inequalities that contribute to the HIV pandemic.

This year marks the 40th year since the first five cases of AIDS were officially reported in 1981. The first case of HIV infection in the Philippines was reported in 1984. The people living with HIV and AIDS could be likened to the Israelites who rose up and broke free from slavery. They are still in the wilderness, finding their way out, finding solutions, nurturing and strengthening each other. Wilderness is not bad at all, we are here trying to empower one another. Like the Israelites, we too complain, we murmur, we cry out, we question those in power and those at the pedestals in order to better their ways and respond to the current needs and situation of the people. (Exodus 15:22-27)

This World AIDS Day, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines anchors its calls to that of UNAIDS which is highlighting the urgent need to end the inequalities that drive AIDS and other pandemics around the world. Without bold action against inequalities, the world risks missing the targets to end AIDS by 2030, as well as a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and a spiraling social and economic crisis.

Since were confronted with crisis brought about by the pandemic, the overlooked truth surfaced: Our nation’s health relies heavily on the wellbeing of the people. Thus, we call on the government to allot a higher budget on our public health system as the country continues to grapple corruption amidst worsening poverty. The government has to arrive at a holistic, effective, and humane pandemic response to heal our nation.

Let us all unite as a people, to heal the social ills that fuel the HIV and AIDS epidemic. We encourage our member churches to launch awareness raising and advocacy campaigns that discuss the inequalities faced by people living with HIV and AIDS and their families. We call on the people to pray for the complete healing of our nation from all diseases and social ills, and continue on uniting and pushing for good governance and righteousness among our leaders.

Signed:

01 December 2021

REV. FELIPE B. EHICAN, JR.
Chairperson

RT. REV. JOEL O. PORLARES
Vice – Chairperson

DR. GAY B. MANODON
Vice – Chairperson

MA. KAY CATHERINE F. ALMARIO
Vice – Chairperson

MAJOR ALLAIN M. NIETES
Corporate Treasurer

BISHOP REUEL NORMAN O. MARIGZA
General Secretary