Charities at Lambeth meeting say 'keep faith on HIV'

By agency reporter
October 13, 2011

Development charities from a wide number of backgrounds have warned that the world could fail to meet its targets on HIV if action is not sustained.

The call came at a conference at Lambeth Palace attended by HIV experts from both faith-based and secular organisations including, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Christian Medical Fellowship, INERELA+, International HIV Fund, Islamic Relief, Mildmay, Progressio, the Salvation Army, and Tearfund.

The conference was opened by the Anglican Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Rev Stephen Platten, who read a message of welcome from Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Christian Aid's Advocacy and Networks Officer Winnie Ssanya Sseruma commented: "This is a time when faith-based organisations should be stepping up their efforts in the response to HIV, not cutting back. This is a critical time in the HIV response."

She continued: "There are too many people who need treatment who do not have it and HIV-related stigma is still one of the biggest barriers in terms of access to services. Faith-based organisations need to continue to play their role as full partners in the quest to eliminate HIV."

'Keeping Faith', a report launched at the conference under the auspices of the UK Consortium on AIDS and International Development, a network of leading charities working on HIV, also emphasises the pivotal role played by faith-based organisations in responding to HIV in poor countries around the world. It calls for their key role in tackling HIV around the world to be better understood and supported.

Rianne Tenveen of Islamic Relief said: "People sometimes make assumptions about faith-based organisations and their role in tackling HIV. But most people in the developing world are members of a religion."

Progressio's Head of Policy, Tim Aldred, added that "without a constructive role for faith-based organisations in responding to HIV, we will not be successful in tackling it effectively."

The report argues that many religious leaders and organisations are working hard to tackle the stigma often associated with HIV, as well as providing the backbone of vital support services in many locations.

Kola Akinola of Tearfund, one of the agencies who organised the conference, declared: "Faith-based organisations have shown that they are vital providers of services to people living with HIV. And they are also working from within to challenge attitudes within faith communities that stigmatise people living with HIV. There is still a long way to go, but faith-based organisations are in this for the long haul."

CAFOD's HIV Knowledge Management Coordinator Harriet Jones said: "Catholic Bishops in East Africa have emphasised the urgency of this issue recently, when they said: 'HIV continues to ravage our populations while in many instances it has slipped from a prominent place of concern and response on the agenda of governments, civil society and even the churches. It is important that a holistic approach be taken to dealing with the pandemic, seeing it neither as primarily a medical-pharmaceutical problem nor a matter solely of behavioural change. It is profoundly a development and justice issue. At a time when some official concerns to the pandemic are receding, we must acknowledge that the Body of Christ has AIDS, and provide a priority response fitting to the Family of God.'" [AMACEA Bishops, Submission for the Africa Synod, 2009]"


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