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Groups call for debt cancellation to fight AIDS crisis

 


Groups call for debt cancellation to fight AIDS crisis

Dec. 2, 2004   

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo courtesy of
United Methodist Board of Church and Society


Susan Burton delivers a statement during rally on World AIDS Day.

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Rallying on World AIDS Day, several organizations – including the United Methodist Board of Church and Society – called for full debt cancellation for all impoverished nations and an end to international policies that hamper those countries in fighting HIV/AIDS.

The groups rallied outside the World Bank and International Monetary Fund offices Dec. 1.

“Statistics make clear that the countries most impacted by AIDS are those countries that are heavily strapped with debt,” said Susan Burton, a staff executive with the Board of Church and Society, reading a statement by her agency. “Debt relief would allow countries to transfer funds to those critical programs that would help slow the rate of AIDS, would provide much needed drugs to AIDS victims, would provide educational information on sexuality to young people, and would provide economic opportunities for men and women.”

Like AIDS, women and children bear the full costs of debt repayment, she said.

“We lift up 13-year-old Margaret Masawi of Zimbabwe, who dreams of becoming a teacher. Young as she is, she heads a household and cares for her two younger brothers. Margaret and her brothers are three of the 980,000 children in Zimbabwe who have lost one or both parents to AIDS,” she said.

“The United Methodist Church pledges to increase its commitment to alleviating AIDS around the globe and also address the injustice of the debt crisis,” she continued. “We call upon all United Methodists to take a stand for those whose voices are not heard — like Margaret — in the public square.”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo courtesy of
United Methodist Board of Church and Society


Several organizations called for full debt cancellation for all impoverished nations on World AIDS Day. Photo

Other speakers at the rally included Marie Clarke Brill of Africa Action. “Increasingly, in Africa and around the world, AIDS has a woman’s face,” Brill said. “If we are to turn the tide of this pandemic, we need to promote strategies that will address the gender inequalities that leave women most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Instead, the policies of the World Bank and IMF continue to undermine women’s health globally.”

Jakeya Caruthers of Jubilee USA Network emphasized the impact that international debt is having on poor countries’ ability to fight AIDS.

“While impoverished countries struggle to cope with the HIV/AIDS crisis, the World Bank and IMF continue to insist that they prioritize debt repayments over spending on HIV/AIDS programs and health care,” Caruthers said. “The policies imposed by these institutions cripple the ability of African countries to respond to HIV/AIDS. We demand that they drop the debt now to fight HIV/AIDS.”

At the noon rally, dozens of women and girls dressed in red created a human chain in the form of a women’s symbol to dramatize the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls globally. The number of women living with HIV/AIDS continues to increase in every region of the world, according to the United Nations. In Africa, almost 60 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS are women.

“We gather here on World AIDS Day outside two of the most powerful financial institutions in the world to call on them to do the right thing and put an end to policies that block progress on the fight against HIV/AIDS for women and girls,” said Emira Woods, with Foreign Policy in Focus. “While women bear the brunt of this disease, their vulnerability is increased still further by the harmful policies of these institutions.”

Added Njoki Njehu, with 50 Years Is Enough Network: “If the World Bank and IMF are serious about defeating this pandemic and promoting women’s rights, they must cancel the debt and end budget austerity policies that deepen poverty (and) perpetuate gender inequality.”

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society, Africa Action and Jubilee USA provided information for this report.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


 

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