Ending AIDS as a Public Health Threat: Faith-Based Organisations as Key Stakeholders

255_0On 26th October, Caritas Internationalis hosted a meeting for all Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs) and agencies that work with the issue of HIV/AIDS to address how we can play a part in the ending of AIDS as a public health threat.

Monsignor Robert Vitillo hosted the event detailing the impact a number of FBOs have had on reducing the number of HIV and AIDS cases across the world. A number of speakers including Rev. Richard Bauer of Namibia, Sally Smith from UNAIDS and representatives from the Eastern Deanery AIDS Relief Programme spoke of their experiences and welcomed the response and support of FBOs in tackling this problem.

This event coincided with the 37th UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board which is aiming to set a 5 year strategy from 2016-2021 to be adopted by several countries. The aim of the overall strategy is to end AIDS, this needs the support of the governments, civil society organisations, NGOs and FBOs.

During the event a report in its final draft stage was referred to which details the successes a number of FBOs have had in different areas:
•    Cabrini Ministries have been able to provide direct care for 4,201 people in 2014 in Swaziland.
•    The Eastern Deanery AIDS Relief Programme has been able to provide counselling and testing services to 126,000 people in Nairobi with increasing work with those that suffer from TB as well as AIDS.
•    By the end of 2014, the Christian Health Association of Zambia has been able to give 86,789 people with HIV antiretroviral therapy.

The report also draws on other experiences such as encouraging local communities to take responsibility for supporting the individuals living with HIV/AIDS in order to reduce the reliance on international aid opportunities, while still maintaining support from FBOs in management of these programmes.

The successes up to now of the FBOs has proven that despite the discrepancies between UNAIDS policies, especially regarding the use of contraceptives, both types of organisations can remain to work together for the eradication of AIDS.

Overall, there was a positive outcome from the event and we were left with words from Pope Francis that “treatment as prevention, gives witness to the possibilities for beneficial outcome when all sectors of society unite in common purpose”.

Edmund Rice International continues to encourage schools within the Edmund Rice Network to participate in the ‘Haart for Children’ campaign

Corinne McKenna, ERI intern

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