The church in Rwanda should no longer fear people living with HIV and AIDS as if they were lions in the jungle, declared the Rev. Marc Baliyanga, dean of the Rwanda United Methodist Provisional Conference, as he opened the HIV and AIDS Conference.
Sponsored by the United Methodist Global AIDS Committee and the Center for Health and Hope in Centennial, Colorado, the event for United Methodist pastors and spouses convened June 9-12 in Kigali.
“With accurate information and Christian compassion,” Baliyanga said, “pastors and spouses can prevent HIV and overcome fear, stigma and discrimination in their churches and communities.”
He noted that the seminar culminated a forum series ensuring that all 72 pastors and their spouses of the Rwanda Provisional Conference were educated about AIDS. The conference has nearly 130,000 members.
Dr. Angelique Nyamvura, a Rwandan physician and infectious disease specialist, stressed that HIV infections are not caused by witchcraft and sorcery, but transmitted primarily by unprotected sexual intercourse. “If male and female condoms are used properly,” she said, “they are almost 100% effective.
“Everyone is vulnerable to HIV,” Nyamvura added. “No one is automatically immune, so careful behavior and prevention are essential. Not everyone can or will abstain from sex outside marriage or be faithful in marriage, so to protect life and health, condoms are imperative.”
Warning of the dangers of virus transmission during the birth process and in a mother’s milk, she urged pregnant women to be treated by medical doctors at hospitals so a baby can be born virus free.