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Reading Africa Through the Prism of AIDS. Journalist Says Disease Points Up a Host of Weak Spots

MILAN, Italy, MARCH 16, 2005 (Zenit.org). - Of the world's 40 million AIDS sufferers, more than 25 million are in Africa, said the co-director of the Italian missionary magazine Mondo e Missione. "Out of 3 million dead, 2.2 million are Africans, as well as many of the newly infected," Girolamo Fazzini said.

"They are tremendous numbers that say that AIDS is a mortgage that is a lien on the future of entire countries, especially in southern Africa, where the number of infected adults reaches 40%," the journalist said. "Given the dimensions of the phenomenon, there is talk about it but not enough."

The figures were analyzed March 12 at a congress on "AIDS in Africa: Horizons of Pain and Hope," organized by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, and Mondo e Missione, with the department of Missionary Pastoral Care of the Milan Archdiocese.

Fazzini said he is convinced that "precisely because of this dramatic character and the multiplicity of factors in play, AIDS is a sort of prism through which many facets of the present African reality may be read: inadequate health systems, lack of access to medicines, deficient education, traditional atavisms."

"But it also reveals the incapacity and impotence of local governments, corruption and financial interests, international commitments that are not respected and, in general, the profound gap between the world's north and south," he said. "From this point of view, Africa must face a decisive challenge."

Regarding the debate over condoms in the struggle against AIDS, Fazzini said that "recently the need has matured to address the problem beginning with its profound causes: risky sexual behavior, cultural atavisms, lack of information, and economic and social imbalances that penalize the sick of the African continent."

He added: "Although AIDS today is a challenge for many African societies, it is also a privileged occasion of solidarity and testimony for the Christian Churches. In countries like South Africa, for example, the challenge of AIDS is an opportunity of ecumenism of life, translated in concrete solidarity."

The journalist believes that Christians have a "fundamental task: to ensure, beginning from the Gospel, a genuinely human rapprochement with the sick and the sickness, and to witness to charity in concrete situations, in different ways: education, prevention, assistance."