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“Finish the race!” - Faith communities recommit to end HIV and AIDS

“Finish the race!” - Faith communities recommit to end HIV and AIDS

Rev. Phumzile Mabizela. © Paul Jeffrey/WCC

18 July 2016

In a final session at the faith-based pre-conference on HIV and AIDS, faith communities re-committed themselves to ending HIV and AIDS, and to keeping up the pressure in the face of “AIDS fatigue.”

In a stirring speech, Rev. Phumzile Mabizela, executive director of  INERELA+ said, “We must continue in the fast lane. We cannot return to the slow lane or go slow in the fast lane.”

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

This sentiment was reinforced by UNAID’S senior advisor for faith-based organizations (FBOs), Sally Smith, who called on the help of FBOs, saying, “We have the science to end HIV in five years, but we don’t have the funding. We need FBOs and their willingness to go the extra mile. You are called to finish the task that you started.”

Smith encouraged FBOs to re-evaluate their targets and adapt to the changing face of HIV around the world. “You need to look at what you are doing. The epidemic has shifted. Have you?  We need new targets — doubling the numbers on treatment; accelerating the reach of testing and ending new infections in children.”

In a theological evaluation, Rev. Edwin Sanders from Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in the USA used the symbol of skyscrapers to describe the scene. He said: “The global symbols of power are the tall buildings we build, evidence of our advancement. But these same structures cast a shadow on the powerless and it’s the people in the pall of the shadow we are called to help.”

In her early 20s, Zambian Melodie Jongwe brought the session back down to earth. Contracting HIV, she had no knowledge of the disease and her son was also born HIV-positive. She said, “My baby was delivered and I developed blisters. I knew nothing and went back to the clinic and was diagnosed. I call on all faith leaders to step up their commitment to end AIDS as a matter of justice.”

Coverage of faith-based issues and activities at AIDS 2016

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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, +; or contact Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of communication,, +41.79.507.6363