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Press Release: Global Organizations Launch Dialogue Initiative for Religious Leaders and People Living with HIV

22. August 2013


    A strategic initiative to strengthen collaboration between religious leaders and people living with HIV is being launched today by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Affected by HIV (INERELA+) and UNAIDS.


    The Framework for Dialogue between Religious Leaders and Networks of People Living with HIV provides practical steps to help faith communities and people living with HIV to effectively address key issues of concern to those most affected at a national level.


    “One of the major lessons we have learned 30 years into the HIV pandemic is that we can do so much more together than any of us can do on our own,” said Peter Prove, EAA Executive Director speaking in advance of the launch to be held at 18:00 CET in the Ecumenical Centre, Geneva, Switzerland. “This framework builds on the critical leadership and experience people living with HIV have in identifying what needs to happen to improve prevention, treatment and support efforts, through the community reach, moral authority, and pastoral responsibilities that religious leaders have.”


    The organizations acknowledge that dialogue and joint action between religious leaders and people living with HIV is not new. What is new, they highlight, is the intentional process the Framework for Dialogue brings to help both groups – as equal partners – to address and discuss perceptions, experiences and beliefs relating to HIV, and to identify common goals in order to take action together.


    “The principle of equal partnership is core to this project,” said Liz Tremlett, Stigma Index Coordinator for GNP+. “This has not only been demonstrated by strong collaboration between the four organizations that have developed this tool, but is also underscored by the creation of a balanced and inclusive working group in each country that implements the Framework for Dialogue.”


    Organizers report that people living with HIV and religious leaders in the three countries that have piloted this tool – Malawi, Myanmar and Ethiopia – have already forged closer working partnerships to address stigma and discrimination: some have developed principles for respectful engagement, others have formed action plans to take the work forward. A recent regional dialogue in Bangkok also sparked new ideas and working relationships spanning five countries and four religious groupings in Asia.


    Speaking via a pre-recorded video, Safari Mbewe of the Malawi Network of People Living with HIV (MANET+) reflected on the impact of the process, saying: “As a result of the first dialogue that we had, the religious leaders themselves actually opened up their doors to people living with HIV, so that if there were any issues that we have to bring to their attention we should be free to bring them to their attention. To me that was a milestone that now we had established a formal relationship between networks of people living with HIV and religious leaders.”


    “Religious leaders living with HIV play a pivotal role in the Framework for Dialogue process,” emphasized Rev. Phumzile Mabizela, Executive Director of INERELA+. “We can challenge misconceptions and help to bridge any perceived gap between ‘faith’ and ‘living with HIV’.”


    The Framework for Dialogue starts by basing dialogue on evidence that quantifies and illustrates the needs of people living with HIV in a specific country, and then guides religious leaders and people living with HIV through a process of analyzing this evidence in order to identify areas for joint action as well as key issues for further dialogue.


    Dr Mariângela Simão, UNAIDS Director for Rights, Gender, Community Mobilization and Prevention, concluded: “New and effective partnerships at this stage of the global response to HIV - when we finally have the tools and knowledge to lay the groundwork for achieving Zero new infections, Zero discrimination, and Zero AIDS-related deaths – are fundamental. UNAIDS fully supports the development of the Framework for Dialogue and hopes that it will now be rolled out in many more countries to come.”


    For more information about the Framework for Dialogue, including how to implement it in your own country, visit www.frameworkfordialogue.org or contact Sara Speicher, sspeicher@e-alliance.ch, mobile +44 7821 860 723

     


The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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