The Challenges of Faith Responses to the AIDS Epidemic
July 20, 2016
Gathering data about faith activities is often very difficult, especially in the context of the AIDS epidemic, where there are often perceptions of conflict between religious values and health priorities. Progress has been made, however, as reported in a special edition of the Lancet on faith and health care.
Presentations were made on two of the papers in the Lancet special edition: one on data and one on controversies. It was noted that faith community responses do not always match international strategy and that faith is only one of many factors contributing to issues such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, violence against women, the provision of sexual and reproductive health services and stigma related to HIV. Both speakers agreed on the importance of viewing faith-based initiatives as part of an integrated health-care system.
Issues from a community perspective were also addressed. The process of raising awareness of HIV using Muslim principles and religious texts to explore the issues was described, as was the vital role that religious leaders play in reducing the effects of stigma.
The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town described the response of his church to reports of "corrective rape," which led him to launch initiatives against gender-based violence and human trafficking. He noted that the data show that HIV prevalence among survivors of sexual violence is much higher than among the general population.
As the AIDS epidemic has progressed through history, the importance of the faith response has become increasingly apparent. Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, described a recently launched joint initiative of UNAIDS and the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief aimed at strengthening the faith response to HIV, with the hope that faith-based initiatives will be major contributors to the community-based responses that are critical to ending the AIDS epidemic.
Stopping New HIV Infections Among Children and Adolescents and Providing Treatment to Women and Children
This article was provided by UNAIDS. It is a part of the publication The 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016). Visit UNAIDS' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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