The Catholics for AIDS Prevention and Support (CAPS) leadership team met with the Archbishop of Southwark, John Wilson towards the end of May ,to mark the 20th anniversary of CAPS and its peer support ministry, Positive Faith.
The Archdiocese of Southwark has the largest population of people living with HIV (PLWH) in the country. Within the boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham alone there are 8,700 residents living with HIV.
The attendees included Lazarus Mungure, Chair of CAPS, Dr Vincent Manning, Director Abigail Chakanyuka, Pastoral Support Worker and Tyrone Allee, Trustee.
The CAPS delegates shared personal experiences and highlighted the importance of faith for PLWH, an often-overlooked aspect of support in this sector. According to the National AIDS Trust 2018, 70% of all PLWH in the UK consider themselves religious or spiritual, with 52% identifying as Christian.
Archbishop John Wilson, who agreed to become a patron of CAPS last year, alongside Anglican Bishop of Southwark Christopher Chessun, attentively listened to their experiences. He said:
"The support offered through CAPS bears witness to the Gospel imperative to love each other with the love of Christ."
Whilst most PLWH can expect to live full lives today, due to highly effective treatment, diagnosis is still a life-changing experience. HIV-related stigma means that PLWH are often marginalised and misunderstood. As a group in society, PLWH are also disproportionately impacted by poverty and poor mental health. Archbishop Wilson added:
"I am encouraged by the stories of adult discipleship, Christian service and witness that I have heard. There is much that we can learn from a ministry rooted in the Gospel which challenges everyone and excludes no one. Pope Francis has encouraged us consistently to welcome people who, for whatever reason, can find themselves on the periphery of the Church and society. On World Aids Day 2021 he called for a renewed commitment of solidarity towards people living with HIV. We must embrace this call with compassion."
The Archbishop thanked the delegation for the actual service and Gospel witness that CAPS continues to provide for PLWH of all faiths and none in this country, and assured them of his continued support.
CAPS is a UK-based charity founded in 2003 to be a voice for people living with HIV within the church and society. Including people of every faith tradition and those without faith, any sexual orientation, and every ethnicity, CAPS is dedicated to creating an empowered community of people living with or affected by HIV. Through its peer support ministry, Positive Faith, CAPS provides a supportive environment where people can share their experiences, foster adult faith development, and engage in HIV education and prevention efforts. Committed to raising awareness, educating the public, and reducing the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, CAPS works in partnership with secular HIV agencies to promote understanding and provide access to the resources of Christian faith and community.
For more information, visit www.positivefaith.org.uk
Source: With thanks to Independent Catholic News