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
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
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
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.