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Work is not done in HIV response

Work is not done in HIV response

© Albin Hillert/WCC

22 July 2016

Thirty years into HIV response, will the energy and drive first experienced from the faith-based sector be replaced by fatigue and burnout?

Addressing a workshop on faith-based response to HIV, Rev. Canon Desmond Lembrechts of the Anglican Church reminded the faith leaders gathered that their work is always for the common good and it is not yet done.

He lamented the fact that many religious groups are working in silos.

“We have been given much information about HIV and AIDs and many words but where we have fallen short is in our interpretation of these into our local contexts: how do we take all we have heard and learned after AIDS2016 to the pews?”

Lembrechts also bemoaned faith communities’ ever-growing dependence on external funding to drive their agenda of care.

“We are guilty of changing ministry into programmes and have had to sacrifice all the programmes that cost money when funding runs dry.” He drew on Biblical reference of the life and mission of Jesus which was successful despite the non-existence of programmatic funding.

“We must drink from our own wells again and take our HIV response further. Funding should not determine our response because as faith-based organizations we have all the resources to give all people the respect and dignity they deserve. I am not afraid of fast tracking because I believe we have all the resources we need; we just need to be smarter in our response and change the shape of it to suit prevailing conditions.”

As closing encouragement, he quoted from the World Council of Churches 28 June pastoral letter entitled “Churches Recommit to Accelerate HIV Response. “We are a fellowship on the move, a community of pilgrims. We journey together towards life in all its fullness. We pray for God’s guidance and inspiration, so that our pilgrimage will open us to one another through dynamic and creative interaction for justice. God of life, lead us to be living instruments of your justice and peace.”

Speaking at the same workshop on the work of INERELA+ with a particular reference to the SAVE programme, Rev. Phumzile Mabizela, executive director of INERELA+, commented: “Although in general, stigma seems to have reduced, the stigma that is now rampant is silence. This type of quiet withdrawal, disengagement and judgment is worse than the overt stigma which we could deal with.”

INERELA+ is an international, interfaith network of religious leaders who are living with or personally affected by HIV.

Sheik Saleem Banda, director of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, said young people would remain the key to ending AIDS.

“Although we acknowledge that for us to win this fight the youth have to be on board, the challenge when working with young people is the credibility of the messenger rather than the message itself,” said Banda.

Coverage of faith-based issues and activities at AIDS 2016

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