Women Theologians Discuss AIDS in Africa at Yale Conference

The role that religious institutions play in the continued spread of AIDS in Africa was among the topics discussed at a conference held February 28-March 3 at the Yale Divinity School.

Fifty women from 14 countries and diverse faith traditions gathered to take part in the event, part of the Project on Gender, Faith and Responses of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The participants, including 23 theologians and church workers from Africa, shared the conviction that religious traditions and their institutions can exert a major influence on the spread or prevention of the AIDS pandemic. “Faith communities are either part of the problem or part of the remedy,” said Margaret Farley, the Stark Professor of Christian Ethics at the Yale Divinity School and director of the conference.

Conference participants noted that the beliefs and practices of many religious institutions often contribute to women’s risk of infection and can obstruct effective action in their own communities. On the other hand, it was also noted that religious faith often inspires and sustains women as leaders, theologians, policy makers and care-givers.

The women at the conference spoke of the need to change aspects of religious traditions that can contribute to sickness and death - such as the availability and acceptability of condoms. The participants also addressed issues of social justice in international access to medical care.

Participants spent the final sessions determining how to sustain the work they had begun. Plans were made for continued collaboration at a future conference to be sponsored in Ethiopia by the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. For more information about this conference, write to Margaret A. Farley, at Yale Divinity School, 409 Prospect St., New Haven, CT 06511; or contact her, by phone at (203) 432-5355 or (203) 488-0692; by fax at (203) 488-0692; or by e-mail at margaret.farley@yale.edu.

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345