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ss triple helix - summer 2005,  AIDS in Russia - Institutions are waking up to the churches' role

AIDS in Russia - Institutions are waking up to the churches' role

At a landmark conference in April,[1] a coalition of Christian churches, faith based organisations and UN bodies called upon Russian Society, government and the Christian community to respond to the escalating AIDS crisis in that country. Along with Ukraine and the Baltic Sates, Russia is seeing the most rapid growth in HIV infections not only in Europe, but in the whole world. Between 860,000 and a million Russians are now believed to be HIV positive, and the rate of growth is rapid – having started among IV Drug users, it is now spreading to the wider population.[2] This echoes a global pattern, and where there is poverty, poor education, lack of healthcare infrastructure and social support mechanisms, that spread is more rapid.

The conference report recognises that 'the primary driving forces of the epidemic should be seen in corruption of the moral principles of society, destruction of fundamental spiritual values, growing indifference, cruelty and social alienation', and calls upon the churches to educate children and society as a whole in values of family life, fidelity, chastity and compassion. Russia needs the church in order to fight the pandemic.

What is striking about this report is that it was backed by the UNDP (one the United Nations development agencies). This is not unique – in 2004 UNAIDS called together the ever first trans-denominational gathering of Christian leaders in Africa to look at the theological implications of the AIDS pandemic,[3] and there are many more examples.

While it is easy to get too excited about this apparent acceptance of Christians in the fight against AIDS (in contrast, faith based responses to HIV prevention are still regularly attacked by various sectors of the international AIDS community) there can be little doubt that we are in a kairos [4] moment. God seems to be waking up the world's institutions to the fact that his people around the globe are not only having an impact in tackling the epidemic, but have the potential to achieve so much more.

We need to seize the kairos and cooperate where we can but we must also go further and challenge the apathy that lies within the Christian community both here and in the western nations.

  2. UNAIDS 2004 statistics accessed at
  3. A Report on a Theological Workshop Focusing on HIV & AIDS-related Stigma. UNAIDS 2005, ISBN 92 9173 403 9
  4. Luke 12:54–56
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