It is easy to see “who” the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) is, from its name: it is a network of Jesuits and their co-workers in sub-Saharan Africa, who are somehow involved in the ministry of AIDS care and HIV prevention.
The Jesuits have long been responding to the challenges thrown up by HIV/AIDS in Africa. But it was only in 2002 that the continental Jesuit leadership – the Jesuit Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (JESAM) – identified AIDS as a shared priority and created AJAN to coordinate its struggle against the pandemic.
Since then, AJAN has worked hard to support the wide and diverse range of initiatives by Jesuits and their co-workers in AIDS ministry; to develop best practices; and to encourage the development of new programmes. AJAN is coordinated by a team headed by the AJAN Director, Fr Elphège Quenum SJ, in AJAN House in Kangemi, a very poor settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi.
AIDS is no longer considered to be an emergency, and appears to be sliding down the agenda of international priorities. But we are only too aware that the pandemic remains a threat to millions of people, families and communities across sub-Saharan Africa, and are determined to continue doing our utmost to be with those who are affected, to make sure they have all they need to live life to the full, and to prevent the further spread of the pandemic.
The AJAN's vision is to "empower individuals, families and communities, and to work towards an HIV- and AIDS-free society, and towards the fullness of life." This is realized by Jesuits and their co-workers as they reach out daily to the people with HIV, to their families, their widows, and their orphans.
Services offered by organizations that form part of the network include pastoral counselling, home-based care, income-generating activities, and educational, medical and nutritional support. Prevention of HIV through value-based education, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and testing services is crucial, not least among young people.
In the course of their ministry, Jesuits and their co-workers find that they are also called to defend the dignity and rights of those affected, which are often threatened by stigma, discrimination and by the lack of care, treatment and opportunities that they need to live life to the full.
In all this work, it is considered crucial to listen to people living with HIV and others who are affected, to shape responses according to their needs, and to invite their participation in services offered.
The mission of AJAN as a network is to offer Jesuits and their co-workers all the facilitation and support they need for this AIDS ministry: networking, coordination of advocacy initiatives, as well as capacity-building and resource mobilisation.
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