House of Lords of the British Parliament in its quest to reach out to a wider audience in the society have invited a charismatic Malawian female Pastor who is also HIV and AIDS activist, Elizabeth Makwinja – Kalonga, founder and trustee of African Home Traditions and director of the Love and Faith Project to be among the distinguished guests that will attend this year’s World Aids Day commemoration gala night at Westminster, London on December 1st 2015.
The reception has been organised by Terrence Higgins Trust and hosted by the House of Lords to show support for people living with HIV but also to commemorate those who died with the deadly virus.
According to a special invitation made available to Nyasa Times, addressed to Luton based preacher-woman and signed by Jackie Morton, Interim Chief Executive Officer for Terrence Higgins Trust Terrence, the House of the Lords recognises the Malawian UK based Woman of God’s efforts in raising awareness to the general public in the UK.
“Lord Fowler and Baroness Gould, by kind permission of the Lord Speaker, recognises your tireless efforts in raising awareness and your relentless support for the people living with HIV and therefore we request the pleasure of your company at Terrence Higgins Trust’s World AIDS Day Reception in the River Room, House of Lords, on Tuesday 1 December between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm,” reads in part the invitation.
According to the invite, the function will bring together parliamentarians, people living with and affected by HIV, sector leaders and clinicians from across the United Kingdom.
Pastor Kalonga told Nyasa Times that she is ‘very happy’ to be invited to such an important congregation saying that it is by the grace of God that she’s being recognised for what she does for humanity.
“I don’t take this for granted. I know God is at the centre of it all and it by His grace that I am recognised. I believe that as a pastor I have a responsibility not only to preach the word of God, but also, to raise awareness on the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” she said.
“The bible says ‘God’s people are dying because of ignorance’ and we must make sure that, always, that God’s children are aware of HIV and AIDS. We need to support those living with the virus to live a healthy life. We must ensure that they’re not stigmatised,” continued Pastor Kalonga.
Kalonga explained that although the World Aids Day is a great opportunity to talk aboutHIV and AIDS, it important to keep the momentum going on and on throughout the year and beyond saying people needs to change on how they perceive HIV and AIDS.
“We can’t change people’s HIV statuses but certainly we can change people’s attitudes. HIV is no longer a death sentence, with proper medication and care those living with the virus can live longer just like anybody else. We must stop the stigma. We need to stop the discrimination,” she said.
According to the survey, 10.6% of Malawians age 15-49 are HIV-positive. HIV prevalence in the Southern Region is about twice as high as prevalence in the other regions. Overall, 12.9% of women and 8.1% of men are HIV-positive.
Malawi is considered a success story in reducing HIV infection rates, passing the tipping point – when the number of people starting treatment exceeds the number of new infections.
According to UN figures, between 2001 and 2011, the rate of new HIV infections dropped by 73%. This was helped in part by the introduction of ARVs in 2003, which have slashed death tolls from 92,400 to 45,600 over the past decade.
But, with an HIV prevalence of about 10 percent among people aged 15 to 49. Malawi has the ninth highest HIV rate in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNAids estimates. And more than 40% of new infections are among 10 to 19-year-olds. The country is heavily reliant on support from the international donors to fund its national HIV and Aids programmes. Any increase in the number of people on second-line treatment could exacerbate the problem.
An estimated 107,800 (95% credible interval 101,600-115,800) people were living with HIV in the UK in 2013. The overall prevalence was 2.8 per 1,000 population aged 15-59 years (1.9 per 1,000 women and 3.7 per 1,000 men.
Globally, 35.0 million [33.2–37.2 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2013. An estimated 0.8% of adults aged 15–49 years worldwide are living with HIV, although the burden of the epidemic continues to vary considerably between countries and regions.
World Aids Day has taken place on December 1st every year since 1988 and it provides an opportunity to draw attention to the HIV epidemic around the world to raise awareness, to remember those who died, to show solidarity with people living with HIV, to celebrate survival and health and raise money for HIV and AIDS related causes which include medical and scientific research.
“This annual observance is a day to recognise and thank thousands of volunteers, community members, medical and health professionals and scientists who are working together tirelessly to find safe and effective ways of living a healthy life positively,” said Pastor Kalonga.
Every year World Aids Day events take place across the globe to raise awareness and show support and cohesion for those living with the virus and to impart or share basic level knowledge of how the virus spreads and the risks of contracting it and how to live safer and better.
“I would like everyone to think seriously about HIV and what it means to live with HIV and therefore be realistic, aware and practical when it comes to safer sex. Every year there is a theme for World Aid Day and from 2011 until 2015 there has been an ongoing theme of ‘Getting to Zero.’ We need zero tolerance, zero stigma and zero discrimination,” she declared.
The theme for World Aids Day is set by World Aids Campaign, an international coalition of HIV and AIDS groups and networks. However, individual countries can also choose to interpret in their own words.
For World Aids Day 2014, UNAIDS created a campaign around ‘closing the gap’ and has produced resources to support that campaign.
Pastor Kalonga along her Malawian compatriots, friends of Malawi and their supporters have organised a fundraising World AIDS Day Dinner and Dance under the banner of Love and Faith Project to be held in Luton on Saturday, December 5th 2015 from 6PM to 11 PM at Sizzall 40 – 44 George street Luton, LU1 2AZ.
“We invite all Malawians, friends of Malawi and everybody to join us to this great event,” said Pastor Kalonga. “I challenge that we rethink on outdated stereotypes, I challenge that we must challenge myths and be positive about HIV.”
World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and the governments around the world that the HIV has not gone away and that there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudices and improve on sex education and medical and scientific research.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :