Faith at AIDS 2018

Providing space for networking, learning and advocacy among people of faith responding to HIV and AIDS

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Join us at "Faith Building Bridges "

Join us at "Faith Building Bridges "

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba greets a staff member of the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force at AIDS 2016 in Durban.

03 July 2018

By Ulysses Burley III, Chair, Global Organizing Committee

Pope Francis once said, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.” It’s within that spirit that Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and people of goodwill will gather in the city of over 1200 bridges on July 21-22, 2018 as Faith Building Bridges to reduce HIV stigma and discrimination, increase access to education and treatment, and defend the human rights of people who find themselves on the margins of society yet at the center of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

Amsterdam was founded along the banks of the River Amstel where fishermen built a bridge over the river near the IJ (Amsterdam’s waterfront) that doubled as a barrier against rising flood waters below. Thus the city is an appropriate stage for the International AIDS Conference theme “Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges”. And while Amsterdam is named for that barrier, today the iconic city is better known for its many bridges rather than its dams.

Historically, faith and religion have been viewed by some as barriers in the HIV response, offering judgment for people living with HIV and perpetuating stigma and discrimination against vulnerable key populations. Yet today many people of faith and goodwill are actively building bridges with each other, government, civil society, academia, and most importantly, marginalized populations. All efforts seek to end AIDS and with it, the perception that faith and religious communities are a part of the problem and not the solution.

Pew Research estimates 84% of the world’s population identifies with a faith community, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 40% of health care services in low and middle income countries are provided by faith-based institutions. More specifically, faith-based institutions deliver 40% of HIV/AIDS services in Sub-Sahara Africa and as much as 60% of HIV related services in other parts of the world. It’s evident that faith is interwoven into the fabric of the human experience, with health and wellness as a core value across all faiths. It’s also true, however, that we’ve often allowed our differences to divide us rather than building bridges to unite us around our common voice of compassion, grace, dignity and love.

In 2002 the World Council of Churches launched the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA) in response to a call from Christians and churches in Africa to the ecumenical fellowship to journey with them in overcoming the HIV pandemic. Two years later the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), which was founded in 2000, coordinated faith-based participation at the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok where for the first time a faith-based representative spoke during an IAC Plenary.

Today, EHAIA has expanded its reach beyond Africa as the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy and EAA has since joined forces with the WCC to continue their legacies of global HIV and AIDS advocacy together. From Bangkok to now Amsterdam, the WCC-EAA will host the 8th interfaith affiliated event to the International AIDS Conference (IAC) under the theme “Faith Building Bridges”.

Join us now to help build bridges of health and justice. Register for the 2018 IAC Interfaith Affiliated Event