“Let the communities lead!” was the theme of the 2023 World AIDS Day. This assertion rightly recognised the agency of the affected people and their communities while admitting the futility of action that excludes the active participation of every member of society.

Nairobi, Kenya: On 1 December 2023, through the leadership of the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) team, the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) staff members joined the rest of the World to observe World AIDS Day 2023 and in remembrance of those we have lost to HIV and AIDS. The celebration that was held at Africama House, Karen, Nairobi Kenya, was attended by Rev. Fr. Minaku L. José, S.J President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), Fr. Ismael Matambura SJ, AJAN Director, JCAM staff members and 13 visiting Jesuits attending the Training of Formators.

The celebration started with a brief introduction by the AJAN Director, Fr. Ismael Matambura, SJ, who explained the significance of the day: Firstly, to celebrate various successes of Jesuits in the Continent (AJAN), all actors and researchers on the ground in protecting and transforming the lives of those infected and affected across the network. Secondly, to raise more awareness on the need to continue the fight because HIV is not over, it is still with us and it is still affecting the planet, especially Sub-Saharan Africa. Finally, to pray to the Almighty God for the end of the epidemic, for more engagement and commitment to efforts to end the epidemic by putting the person at the center with conjugated creativity.

In the year 2022, the World AIDS Day theme was a call to end inequalities that are barriers to the fight against HIV/AIDS. They include inequality in access, testing and treatment, care, financing, etc. In 2023, in addition to all the services and progress made, the aim was to push to give power to communities “Let Communities Lead”. Communities know and experience the challenges of the epidemic, and are better placed to know what works better for them to find lasting solutions. While we continue to live with the realities of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, we are all too aware of the fact that we are still losing far too many people to this disease.

Read the JCAM statement on World AIDS Day [Here].

AJAN Social Centres mark the 2023 World AIDS in their various locales

Antananarivo, Madagascar: Jesuits and partners in mission from the Arrupe Madagascar Center (CA MDG) joined the national celebration on World AIDS Day, December 1, aligning with the global theme “Entrusting leadership to communities”, a message that was at the heart of the respective activities in the month of December of each entity working to end this epidemic. Because of the electric and uncertain pre- and post-election atmosphere in Madagascar, all the stakeholders for the celebration were unanimous for a ceremony behind closed doors with only 150 people from organisations working to end HIV/AIDS among them international and national organisations.

During the celebrations certificates of recognition were distributed to 30 public and private actors combating HIV, including the Catholic Church represented by the MDG Board of Directors, including communication personnel and Eglise Catholique Apostoliques Romaine (ECAR) (Roman Apostolic Catholic Church) , thanks to prevention and awareness-raising activities within the framework of the L’émission Education à la Vie et à l’Amour (EVA) (The programme of Education in Life and Love) and AJAN HIV/AIDS Prevention Program for the Youth (AHAPPY).

Read more about this event [Here].

Lome, Togo: As part of AJAN’s mission to accompany young people in Togo, in celebration of World AIDS Day (WAD) the Centres Sociaux Loyola held an interscholastic basketball tournament at the Lycée Français de Lomé as part of its campaign to combat HIV. The basketball tournament brought together young people from 12 secondary schools in Lomé and was used as an opportunity to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.

The finale of the basketball tournament dubbed Ethic' Action 2023 was held on Saturday, December 2, 2023, the day after World AIDS Day had been commemorated. A major focus of this tournament, which attracted young players in the minims, cadet, and junior divisions, ages 10 to 18 (both boys and girls), was the fight against the stigmatisation of individuals living with HIV.

Supported by Centres Sociaux Loyola, the Ethic' Action project is designed to increase participants’ awareness and knowledge through basketball sessions while specifically addressing HIV/AIDS and associative themes. More than 1000 young people and their parents benefited directly from the program during the 3 days. The focus is on the most vulnerable STI/HIV prevention messages, the situation of vulnerable young people living in poverty, girls and women. The commitment of the Centres Sociaux Loyola to this tournament is relevant to the theme “Entrusting leadership to communities” chosen for WAD 2023.

Such programs are particularly important because of the high economic inequalities in Togo, where perceptions of HIV and AIDS, sexual transmission, and gender equality are generally guided by religion, traditions, and norms, which are rarely based on evidence and science. HIV and AIDS is a manifestation of existing poverty, which takes hold where livelihoods are not sustainable, and is the result of the unmitigated impact of the epidemic on social and economic conditions.

Read more on the work of AJAN [Here]