Marla Teixeira, Administration and Research Assistant for the Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations, reflects on the role faith-based organisations can have in responding to HIV and AIDS, ahead of World Aids Day on 1 December.
It was 8 am on September 26th, 2019, just days before the end of the United Nations General Assembly, when dozens of interfaith partners arrived at the Yale Club in New York City for what would be one of the most memorable events of the week. Organized by WCC-EAA along with other faith partners in collaboration with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The event was titled "Communities of Faith Breakfast: Building Partnerships for a One-Community Response to HIV - innovative approaches and joint actions through faith partnerships to achieve epidemic control”. Even though the title for the event was lengthy, it still doesn't encompass the incredible work faith communities have been putting into HIV and AIDS response throughout the years.
The event itself was very impactful, with the accounts of both men and women impacted by HIV and AIDS, governments like the U.S. who have provided a lot of funding to the cause, and organizations that have been working on the ground to help stop the propagation of this disease. One of the organizations highlighted on the report released at this event was Zambia Interfaith Networking Group on HIV (ZINGO). ZINGO coordinates, builds competencies, and mobilizes resources to assist faith-based organizations in carrying out activities that promote the quality of life of people living with HIV and AIDS, and that reduce the incidence of new infections in their communities.
Just as the event showcased the important role of Faith based organisations in addressing HIV and AIDS, another important event coming up in 2020 is the Faith at AIDS 2020 conference, organized by WCC-Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. The main conference will be held in both Oakland and San Francisco, California, USA, and will run from July 6th to July 10th, 2020. However, there is also an interfaith pre-conference that will gather religious leaders, faith-based organizations, policy makers, and others in California from the 4th to the 5th of July. This year’s theme will focus on resilience: the resilience to fight against stigma, to insist on the fundamental human right to live with HIV in dignity and good health, and to persevere in a rapidly changing global health landscape.
Conferences that promote the involvement of people of faith in the response to HIV and AIDS can’t be overlooked. Faith leaders are among those most connected to their communities, especially to their most marginalized members. They also exert a strong influence within their parishes, and with one sermon they have the power to slowly start destigmatizing people who live with HIV and AIDS and help reintegrate them into their communities. People within churches that live with HIV/AIDS also have an important role in helping build resilience, especially when they are equipped with the right tools to do so.
My hope is that this conference and even this blog post will inspire believers throughout the Communion to step into the work of HIV and AIDS response with an open heart and with the resilience to keep fighting for our brothers and sisters still suffering with the disease.
For more information on Faith at AIDS 2020, please visit: https://www.aids2020.org/faqs/#scholarship-programme