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Turn the tide on AIDS, US Bishops urge

26 July 2012

By a Staff Reporter


AN INTERNATIONAL conference on AIDS is being held in the United States for the first time in 22 years, after President Barack Obama lifted a ban on people with HIV entering the country.

The five-day conference, AIDS 2012, which concludes today, brought about 25,000 delegates to Washington. The President, however, did not attend.

Delegates heard keynote addresses from Elton John - who said he should have been dead by now of AIDS, like his friend Freddie Mercury - and the former President Bill Clinton.

An interfaith "pre-conference" was organised by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, where delegates were told that the faith community had to work to address injustice in order to turn the tide against HIV.

The Revd Nyambura Njoroge, from the World Council of Churches, said that injustice towards people with HIV was frequently deeply entrenched in churches, and that churches must listen to people with HIV.

She said that the stigma of the virus was worse than the virus itself. "Without engaging people living with HIV, then we don't have the facts. Justice thrives in non-judgemental, non-stigmatising, non-blaming communities."

More than 850 people of different faiths attended a service in Washington National Cathedral, on the eve of the conference, to remember those lost to AIDS. The AIDS memorial quilt was also displayed in the service.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, and the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Rt Revd Mark Hanson, commended the President for lifting the ban.

"AIDS 2012 can be a defining moment for the history of engagement with HIV and AIDS. Promising new scientific advances and global investments now make it possible to turn the tide on HIV and AIDS, with new hope for a cure and the end of AIDS within our reach."

Death rates have dropped to 1.7 million, they said, but in some parts of the world - notably Asia and Eastern Europe - infection rates were rising.

Faith-based approaches to HIV. Christian Aid provides a "unique bridge" between faith and secular groups in the fight against HIV in Africa, a new report suggests, writes Madeleine Davies.

The evaluation, commissioned by Christian Aid and carried out by a consultancy firm, Purplol, concludes that faith-based approaches to HIV are "desperately needed" to reach faith leaders who enjoy an "extensive reach" in their communities, but have either been "bypassed" by conventional awareness-training or have rejected secular messages. Many such groups have previously been hesitant about adopting HIV messages, it suggests, for fear that these would be incompatible with religious teachings.

Christian Aid has been working with faith leaders to tackle HIV since 2003, and has receiving funding for this from the Department for International Development since 2009.


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