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Through July 23: Failed Shepherds At AIDS 2010: Lutheran Bishops Avert Their Eyes As Their Flock Dies

VIENNA/EWORLDWIRE/July 21, 2010 — The Vienna-based HIV-AIDS watchdog organization PAMOJA is demanding accountability from the Lutheran church and government authorities responsible for the gross abuse of the human rights of HIV positive people living in Makete District, Tanzania, leading to impairment of treatment and an increase in HIV transmission and deaths.

PAMOJA and the self-help patients group PIUMA are participating in AIDS 2010 with a kiosk that accuses these authorities of having blood on their hands for their refusal to act to end the woefully inadequate care available in the local Tanzanian Lutheran hospital.

According to PAMOJA spokesman Fabian Wirnsperger, “The HIV health crisis in the area was worsened by the theft of more than 300,000 Euros of health care resources by church officials in 2003 and 2004. The individuals responsible for the theft, the ongoing catastrophic conditions in the Bulongwa Lutheran Hospital, and the attempts by Lutheran bishops and foreign mission staff in Africa and Europe to cover up the abuse, have not been held accountable for their actions.”

PAMOJA has identified Tanzanian bishops Alexander Malasusa, Hans Mwakabana and Shadrack Manyiewa, German bishop Johannes Friedrich, and Austrian Lutheran bishops Michael Buenker and Herwig Sturm as failing to respond to repeated demands that the human rights abuse stop. “Their inactivity leads to impairment of treatment and subsequently to death and increased infection,” added Dr. Rainer Brandl, a physician involved with PIUMA.

Lutheran churches are participating at AIDS 2010 in cooperation with the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA). PAMOJA and PIUMA are calling upon the EAA to recognize the presence of human rights abusers among its partners and to pressure the Austrian, German and American Lutheran churches to correct the deadly situation in Tanzania.

PAMOJA and PIUMA are also calling on the International AIDS Society (IAS) to make accountability a focus for its work and to require all its participating members and organizations to adopt strict financial and program accountability mechanisms.

A member of PIUMA, Aizack Sanga has traveled from Makete District, Tanzania, to AIDS 2010 to bear witness to the ongoing oppression of people living with HIV and AIDS in Makete District. Sanga says, “Basic testing and minimal standards of medical care are not being met.” A PAMOJA-sponsored study visit by medical doctors in February to the area gathered data that supports the claims of the local people that their CD4 counts are not regularly done, which led to late onset treatment and a shockingly high number of unnecessary deaths.

More recent work by Dr. Julio Montaner, outgoing IAS president, and others suggest that this kind of failure to treat the disease aggressively in Bulongwa has inevitably led to increased infections and untimely deaths.

Supporters of PAMOJA and PIUMA have staged a series of flash mob gatherings in Vienna, daubing bloody hand prints on one another and demanding an end to the deaths of PLWHA in Makete and accountability for those responsible.

PAMOJA also sponsored the creation and presentation of an original bronze sculpture by Viennese artist Christoph Holzknecht at AIDS 2010. Entitled, “Who killed Veneranda?” the disturbing piece is a memorial to a teenage member of PIUMA who died from lack of care in Tanzanian Lutheran institutions in February 2009 and to the more than 70 others whose deaths have been documented by PIUMA.

A companion video documentary of the same title was produced by German journalist Marion Mayer-Hohdahl, which can be found at http://vimeo.com/12000742

For more information on PAMOJA and PIUMAs presence at AIDS 2010, visit pamoja.at (http://www.pamoja.at).

Contact:

Fabian Wirnsperger
Chair, Pamoja
Email:office@pamoja.at
Cell: +43 650 533 88 27

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