A new report by Progressio is urging religious leaders around the world to reflect on how faith communities can help or hinder support for people living with HIV.
The report, entitled 'Prayer alone is not enough', is due to be launched on World Health Day (Thursday 7 April 2011) and offers first-hand accounts from people living with HIV and those working to support them in poor and marginalised communities in Yemen, Zimbabwe and El Salvador.
"The stories are deeply personal, often brutally honest and challenging, and share emotions that range from grief to encouragement, from despair to hope," says Christine Allen, Progressio's executive director.
Interviewees, including Christian and Muslim faith leaders, child heads of household, sex workers, former gang members, and development workers, reflect movingly on their own personal experiences of faith in the light of HIV.
• Jane, a married woman living with HIV in Zimbabwe, says, "People living with HIV don't want church members to know because they will be stigmatised."
• Abdulla Mohammed El Qadesi, an imam in Yemen recalls, "I used to think HIV was a punishment from God… I changed my mind about it."
• And Ana Deysi in El Salvador says "As a person of faith working in the HIV community, I consider the HIV community to be my community."
The Progressio report gives a human face to a diverse group of people living with HIV in difficult circumstances - all of whom have shared their experiences in the hope of building understanding.
Their personal accounts demonstrate that the attitudes and behaviours of faith communities really do matter and can make the difference between people living with HIV being able to access care, support and treatment or not, the agency says.
"Mobilising faith communities to break the silence, confront stigma and condemn discrimination surrounding HIV is essential if we are to overcome this barrier," the report concludes.
'Prayer alone is not enough' offers "an invaluable insight to anyone willing to examine their own attitudes and reflect on how we, and faith communities especially, can play a positive part in an effective response to HIV", says Progressio - a UK-based charity Catholic working internationally to help people gain power over their lives and overcome barriers that keep them poor.
Download 'Prayer alone is not enough' here (*.PDF / Adobe Acrobat format): http://cts.vresp.com/c/?Progressio/8c1dbf3220/d5facb19b6/aaa27d1627