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Talking about sex and HIV across generations

Talking about sex and HIV across generations

The Faith Networking Zone has become a hub for dialogue. © Albin Hillert/WCC

Jul 21, 2016

The Faith Networking Zone at the 21st International AIDS Conference has become a hub for dialogue between young women and religious leaders talking together about sex, sexuality and HIV.

“We ask you to address us on sexuality without condemnation or judgement. Please do not use scripture to judge us or moralise everything,” stated one young participant.

The young women called on religious leaders to acquire relevant information, promote abundant life for all and uphold the principle of confidentiality.

The dialogues are being organized by the World YWCA and the World Council of Churches Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy.

Those in the dialogue agreed that the key to thorough information on sexuality for young people is comprehensive sexuality education and age-appropriate information to children and young people from an early age.

The young women acknowledged that the religious leaders have power and hence are very influential. She called on them to use their power and influence to provide leadership, safe spaces and mentoring rather than to condemn and alienate the youth. They seek guidance and empowerment by faith communities as they navigate through life living with HIV and other risks that diminish life.

The religious leaders present lamented the fact that they have been failing their youth and sought their forgiveness. They committed to empower themselves with relevant information for greater effectiveness, listen more, be more understanding and supportive.

Rev. Uduma Ikechukwu Anaga from the Presbyterian Church in Nigeria apologized for faith leaders' failure “to listen and heed the concerns of our daughters in the churches.”

"We must be friends with our girls and young women,” he said.

Both groups agreed that dialogue about uncomfortable subjects was essential as part of an inclusive and holistic HIV response and that intergenerational communication is key to taking the right actions on issues related to sex and sexuality.

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For more information or to request interviews with faith-based representatives, please contact Sara Speicher, coordinator of the AIDS 2016 Ecumenical Media Team at ssp@wcc-coe.org, +27.71.206.3427; or contact Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of communication, mej@wcc-coe.org, +41.79.507.6363