AIDS challenge is about 'women's empowerment'

The Archbishop of Canterbury has recorded a video message for World AIDS Day in which he warns that nearly two million women are dying each year as a result of the condition.

In the video, Dr Rowan Williams welcomes the way in which HIV and AIDS has moved up the global agenda in the last decade but says that there is still a lot more that governments and churches need to do to tackle it.

He makes the connection between HIV and AIDS and "women's empowerment and women's liberty", as well as gender-based violence.

The video message was recorded during his recent visit to Papua New Guinea where the Archbishop said violence against women was a "major" issue that churches in the country are now starting to make a common witness against.

"HIV/AIDS is regularly both the cause and the result of gender-based violence," he said.

"It results often from rape, from unacceptable and degrading sexual practices.

"It's the result of attitudes towards women that demean them, that deny their human dignity.

"HIV/AIDS is also the cause of violence, it's the cause of stigma and rejection, and suspicion."

The Archbishop said it was "crucial" that governments and wider society address the connection between HIV and gender equality.

He said he longed to see a holistic and "personal approach" that links education, gender respect and medical access.

"The statistics show quite clearly that we are able to make fantastically large changes in how this crisis, how this challenge, impacts on us globally," he said.

"We've seen real advance. We've also seen the political will in governments sometimes slack on this; people have got too used to this.

"Yet, we know what can be achieved; we know that governments, working with civil society, working with churches and faith organisations, can eliminate this [suffering]."