July 19, 2014
Faith-based organizations from around the world came together on the eve of the 20th International AIDS Conference, to be held in Melbourne, Australia, to call for a renewed commitment to strengthening the global AIDS response.
During the interfaith preconference event, Stepping up in Faith, which took place on 18 and 19 July, more than a hundred religious leaders, people of faith living with and affected by HIV, representatives of key populations, young people, advocates and activists explored the role that faith-based organizations can play in strengthening the response. Joining them were UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Luiz Loures and United States Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Deborah Birx.
The participants examined the faith-based community’s HIV response to date and where it needs to go in the years ahead, using lessons from the past to shape the future beyond 2015. Also discussed were the opportunities and challenges for the faith community in striving to achieve the goals of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
Twelve workshop sessions covered a broad range of topics, including addressing homophobia and HIV-related stigma, good practice in the faith-based response to HIV, reducing the burden of care on young women volunteers, faith-based comprehensive sexuality education and how to ensure lifelong treatment for all who need it.
“Our challenge is to make sure the science is brought closer to the people in need. The faith community is central to the delivery of services and we must continue to work together to achieve the end of the AIDS epidemic.”
“We have to join hands rather than point fingers. Stigma and criticisms continue to haunt people affected by HIV. If one of us is not welcomed, none of us is welcomed.”
“I cannot see more power to change society than when people speak up.”