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Church World Service, U.S. Musician Tim Janis
Launch New Collaboration on AIDS in Africa

May 11, 2002, Johannesburg, South Africa - "Don't stigmatize people with HIV/AIDS" is a core theme of a bold new collaboration of help and hope for HIV/AIDS-infected and affected Africans.

Tim JanisChurch World Service, U.S.-based international humanitarian disaster relief, development and advocacy organization, and American instrumental musician Tim Janis (pictured), whose "music with a mission" counts six Billboard-charting CDs to date, launch that collaboration publicly this weekend in the eye of the HIV/AIDS treatment storm -- in South Africa, where an estimated one in five adults is HIV-positive.

May 10 at Durban City Hall, Janis performed at a "Symphony of Hope," a gala benefit concert for the Sinikithemba (pronounced SIN-I-KAH-TEM-BAH) Christian Care Centre at McCord Hospital. Church World Service is among funders of the center, which provides comprehensive, compassionate care for more than 18,000 HIV-positive people every year. Also performing were many South African musicians, including the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Sinikithemba center's HIV-positive women's choir. Concert proceeds will go toward establishment of a new homecare training hospice.

May 12 in Soweto's beloved Regina Mundi Catholic Church, Janis will play for an ecumenical service of music, prayer and commitment, under the theme "National Church Call to Condemn the Stigmatization of HIV/AIDS Infected and Affected." There he will join the renowned Imilonji KaNtu (pronounced IM-I-LONE-GEE KAHN-TOO) Choral Society, the Soweto community choir that sang at Nelson Mandela's inauguration as President. Between 3,000-4,000 people, including church, political and business leaders, are expected to attend the service, along with area residents.

Local organizer for the May 12 event is the South African Council of Churches (SACC), a longtime Church World Service partner recognized worldwide for its involvement in the struggle against apartheid. Today Church World Service continues to support the SACC as it engages the new challenges of South Africa's developing and fragile democracy, including the effort to destigmatize HIV/AIDS and extend compassion, treatment and services to HIV/AIDS infected and affected.

While in South Africa, Janis will visit the SACC and HIV/AIDS projects and will record several tracks with the Sinikithemba and Imilonji KaNtu choirs for a new CD. Proceeds from U.S. sales of the CD through selected distribution channels will benefit Church World Service's support for HIV/AIDS projects across Africa. The South Africa musical tour and events and CD sales are part of a major, multi-year Church World Service African initiative focusing on such critical issues as HIV/AIDS, peace-building, malnutrition, poverty, and human rights abuses.

Janis and Church World Service are planning a similar "Symphony of Hope" benefit concert at The Riverside Church, New York City, on World AIDS Day, December 1.

HIV/AIDS in Africa: the Cry for Destigmatization, Compassion, Treatment

Since it began, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has claimed the lives of 17 million Africans. 25 million people now live with HIV/AIDS in Africa. There were 3.8 million new infections in Africa in 2000. So far AIDS has left 13 million orphans in its wake-- a number projected to grow to 40 million orphans by 2010 without a massive effort to contain the disease. The epidemic, moreover, threatens fragile progress in education, food production, economic development, and political stability.

In South Africa, where it is estimated that one in five adults is HIV-positive, debate about the use of anti-retroviral drugs and their availability to pregnant women "has created the impression that the supply of medication is what the fight against AIDS is all about," says Gary Thompson, South African Council of Churches HIV/AIDS program director.

"But the stigmatization of those infected is a huge concern that creates the climate of denial that frustrates any programs to stem the tide of AIDS," he adds. "More people are owning up to the fact of being HIV-infected, but the general climate is still one of denial and ostracism of those who make known that they are infected. In theological terms, it is sometimes expressed this way: 'AIDS is a sin that does not touch good people.'

"That's why the SACC is calling South Africa and its churches with their prominent place in South African society to condemn and act against this false notion," Thompson explains, "and to strengthen and expand already existing programs of care for the HIV-infected."

Key Words: Help and Hope

Help and hope are key words for all the partners in this collaboration to address HIV/AIDS in Africa. When Church World Service celebrated its first half-century of ministry in 1996, the theme was "Fifty Years of Help and Hope." Working in partnership with the National Council of Churches, with 36 denominations across the U.S., and with local organizations in more than 80 countries including the United States, Church World Service supports sustainable self-help development, meets emergency needs, aids refugees, and helps address the root causes of poverty and powerlessness.

Church World Service's work to combat AIDS is part of a major multi-year African initiative focusing on such critical issues as peace-building, poverty, malnutrition, human rights abuses, and HIV/AIDS. In the face of the African AIDS catastrophe, Church World Service will focus on supporting partners' efforts to: provide effective community-based prevention, care and treatment; combat the stigmatization and denial associated with the disease; promote the dignity and human rights of persons infected with HIV/AIDS; and address the larger social context which fuels the spread of AIDS. 

In South Africa, Church World Service supports both the Sinikithemba Christian Care Centre and the South African Council of Churches' HIV/AIDS program, which in 2002 is seeking to provide HIV/AIDS infected and affected with a stable diet and a sustainable source of income through establishment of vegetable gardens in all nine provinces; combat stigmatization of and discrimination against HIV/AIDS-infected people; extend treatment and ensure adequate government funding for it; and prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS.

The South African Council of Churches' HIV/AIDS work is part of its broader commitment to improving the lives of the people of South Africa, operating at various levels that seek to address the basic needs of the poor and marginalized. The SACC's 25 full-member denominations and 18 other affiliated churches and organizations comprise 60 percent of South Africa's people.

The Sinikithemba Christian Care Centre's name is a Zulu word that in English means, "We Give Hope." Founded in 1996, Sinikithemba is the first AIDS care center in Durban linked to an accredited health care facility, and remains the only AIDS care clinic that provides a complete and holistic array of effective services for the whole person--including testing and treatment, counseling, education, support groups, and assistance to HIV-positive people through income opportunities. Work projects include beadwork that is marketed internationally. (Among contracts: 10,000 AIDS care badges for the World AIDS Conference in July 2000 and for Church World Service.)

Top-Charting Musician Janis: Music, Philanthropy As Healing

34-year-old musician Tim Janis' consistent use of his uplifting instrumental music to support philanthropic efforts developed naturally as increasing numbers of his fans began to use his music in therapeutic and inspirational contexts. His "Music of Hope" CD recorded with Paul McCartney and benefiting the American Cancer Society topped Billboard Magazine's Top Classical Albums last year, and his "music with a mission" is used by the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and others in the medical community to ease people through chemotherapy and other treatments.

Janis approached Church World Service several months ago about ways he might employ his music to support the organization's AIDS response efforts. Out of that conversation grew the trip to South Africa to visit Church World Service supported programs and to record music with South African musicians for a new CD slated for national distribution in the U.S. Sales of the CD will benefit Church World Service's AIDS work in Africa.


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