27th July, 2012
A White House forum on 24th July attended by Obama administration officials and faith leaders took stock of the faith-based response to HIV and explored partnerships between faith communities and governments to uphold dignity and justice in the context of the HIV epidemic, according to a news release from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.
PICTURE: David Dallaqua/www.sxc.hu
ZAMBIANS WITH HIV LEARNING TO LIVE A "POSITIVE LIFE"
By their daily lives and examples, Zambians are living the theme of the 19th International AIDS Conference, 'Turning the Tide Together.'
Collins Mulenda, 33, says he is "living a positive life" both by being treated for the HIV virus himself and by acting as a peer counselor at Our Lady’s Hospice, a church-affiliated institution, in the Zambian capital of Lusaka that treats both inpatients and outpatients for various HIV-related conditions.
"It is hard for someone to live 'a positive life'," Mr Mulenda said of his work counselling those who have discovered they have the HIV virus and are struggling with the new reality. "It's our job for that person to understand and be able to handle the situation."
A Lusaka automobile mechanic who was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2004, Mr Mulenda, the father of three children (who are not HIV-positive), says he would be "stigmatising myself" if he was not open about his status.
CHRIS HERLINGER, of ENInews, reports... |
Leaders expressed appreciation for the US government's bipartisan commitment to the global and national HIV response, and administration officials highlighted the services, reach, and leadership of the faith community.
But both groups flagged patent barriers to treatment and anti-stigma advocacy within faith communities as challenges that must be addressed.
"Pharmaceuticals alone will not bring about an end to the HIV pandemic, and the faith-based community has a critical role in the response through promoting social opinions and community attitudes that either enhance and enable the response or, we have to admit, impede the response," said Peter Prove, executive director of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.
He described faith-based communities as providing the critical "software" of the HIV response.
Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, deputy executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, emphasised that faith leaders are "critical agents of change". Faith is an important part of the lives of most people and faith-based organisations provide up to 70 per cent of basic health services in some countries, especially among hard-to-reach communities, she noted.
Yet Ms Albrectsen also warned that "ignorance, prejudice and corruption can subsume the mantel of religion" and in such an atmosphere, individuals, especially women, will not be open or seek treatment because they fear judgment.
"There should not be any table talk about HIV and AIDS in this country and around the world without voices of faith being around the table," said Rev Edwin Sanders, senior servant and founder of the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
Rev Sanders recognised that the language of faith is sometimes foreign to science, but solutions, he said, "come about when people bring different language, different perspectives, different understandings to the table."
Partnerships across sectors are key, agreed Joshua Dubois, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships: "The path to an AIDS-free generation is paved with partnerships."