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Faith-based response to HIV must be inclusive

Faith-based response to HIV must be inclusive

Manoj Kurian speaking during a session in the Global Village. © Albin Hillert/WCC

22 July 2016

A faith-based response to the needs of people living with HIV and AIDS must be inclusive and just, said people in discussion at the Global Village at AIDS2016.

“As people of faith, we need to respond to the needs of society and that response should never be governed by conditions that exclude,” said Manoj Kurian, coordinator of the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. “Our treatment of people should always be with great compassion.”

Kurian and others called for faith-based organizations (FBOs) to identify people with passion and commitment for universal human dignity to become the champions of the cause.

Stigma was once again underlined as hampering progress in HIV response.

“You cannot address HIV-related stigma without addressing the stigma faced by men who have sex with men, sex workers, and women, who more often than not are victims of double stigma,” said Kurian. “The race against HIV will not be won without fully embracing strategies that seek healing for all.”

The vital role played by FBOs in health was emphasized. FBOs are often the primary, or in some cases the only, providers of health and palliative care and, in many cases, they are also the key drivers of norms and what is considered acceptable. Those in the conversation asked: If FBOs propagate a divisive message, how then will key populations access care?

As FBOs accept the challenge to rev up and accelerate their services, they are also challenged to ensure services are inclusive and that barriers to access are dismantled.

In the words of Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron: "HIV is not just transmitted by sex. It's transmitted by sexism, racism, poverty and homophobia... if we're going to end AIDS we have to cure the disease within our own hearts and within our own minds first.”

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