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Discussing Prevention

Prevention can be a controversial and uncomfortable topic especially within and between Christian churches, who account for a large percentage of the global response to HIV and AIDS. Heated debates have arisen in regard to HIV prevention methods such as use of condoms or harm reduction approaches for injecting drug users. The unwillingness and inability to discuss sex and sexuality further hamper our knowledge of the full range of options that are known to be successful in HIV prevention. Religious leaders often feel pressured in their responses to choose between acknowledging the complexities of emerging health crises, such as the HIV pandemic, and upholding long-held traditions and beliefs that are difficult to change or are seen as essential to their faith.

The silence of many churches and religious leaders on comprehensive HIV prevention and the inaccurate information and myths that are then allowed to proliferate contribute to the continued spread of HIV in every region of the world.

Individuals and communities need accurate information on how HIV is transmitted and how it can be prevented. However, prevention efforts must go beyond focusing on individual personal behavior. Effective prevention involves challenging social, political, economic, and religious structures, systems and inequalities that make women, youth, and special groups of the population particularly vulnerable to contracting HIV. Prevention efforts must address the causes and effects of poverty which hamper education, treatment and care.

Promoting HIV prevention means speaking out about the factors and myths that put people at risk of infection, and working to name and change beliefs, structures, and systems that stigmatize people living with HIV.