Response of FBOs to AIDS is "Untold Story" Print {sharethis label=}

Role of the Faith Community in AIDS Response is “Untold Story”

Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, told attendees at the Interfaith Pre-Conference on HIV held July 20-21 in Washington, DC that the role the faith community plays in the response to AIDS is the untold story of the dramatic transformation from the hopeless situation we were in a decade ago to the more hopeful one of today.

Sandra Thurman, Director of the Interfaith Health Program at Emory University introduced the panel and announced the release of a report: “A Firm Foundation: Report on the Role of Faith-based Organizations in Sustaining Community and Country Leadership in the Response to HIV/AIDS.”

In addition to Ambassador Goosby, speakers on the panel included CCIH member Dr. Peter Okaalet, Okaalet & Associates (pictured with CCIH Program Manager Mona Bormet and CCIH Communications Specialist Kathy Erb); Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Reverend Canon Gideon Byamugisha, INERELA+ (International Network of Religious Leaders Living with (or affected by) HIV/AIDS), Uganda.

According to Ms. Thurman, faith-based organizations have deep roots and enduring commitments to their communities, making them ideal partners in the response to HIV/AIDS.

Ambassador Goosby announced that UNAIDS released a report last Wednesday revealing that 8 million people are currently receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS. He said 10 years ago people could not get the treatment and were lost in the prime of their lives. But a decade later, the situation has been transformed. He quoted Nick Kristof of the New York Times who wrote recently that the dramatic reversal in AIDS deaths “has been a blessing for everyone but the coffin makers.”

Ambassador Goosby stated that without the contributions of FBO partners, PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) could not have achieved the gains it has. PEPFAR supports antiretroviral treatment for nearly 4 million people living with HIV and interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission that enabled approximately 200,000 babies to be born HIV negative in 2011 alone. In addition, PEPFAR supported care for 3.4 million children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS. The ambassador also said faith communities work in the toughest areas of the world and serve marginalized people beyond the reach of the government and public health system; and that including the faith community is not optional in reaching an AIDS-free generation. He said a visit to a faith-based clinic is often the only contact with a health system for marginalized people. He closed by saying the faith community has long been a symbol of hope to people everywhere and helps create an atmosphere of acceptance for people living with the virus.

Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control

According to Dr. Frieden, PEPFAR wouldn’t exist in its present form or even at all without faith-based organizations; and it definitely wouldn’t be getting the great results it has achieved. Dr. Frieden said FBOs are that vital link that is keeping people alive and that all faiths start with the idea that life is sacred and we are challenged to respect and extend life. According to Dr. Frieden, this is why FBOs and public health systems share a commitment.

Dr. Frieden also pointed out that healthcare in Africa is largely a function of religious organizations and that FBOs provide 40 percent of the care in Rwanda and Tanzania, and approximately 70 percent in Kenya. He closed by urging FBOs to do even more to tell others about the work they are doing and how important and effective it is at saving and respecting lives. 

Dr. Peter Okaalet of Okaalet & Associates

CCIH member Dr. Peter Okaalet of Okaalet & Associates participated in the consultation in Nairobi in May that contributed to the “Firm Foundation” report on FBOs and the response to AIDS. According to Dr. Okaalet, participants at the consultation discussed: 

1.      The unique role of faith-based organizations in global health

2.      The value FBOs can offer to the work of others in the response to HIV/AIDS

3.      How FBOs can strengthen the relationships between government, the private sector and FBOs

Dr. Okaalet said FBOs continue to need partners to accomplish their work. He identified greater strategy along with methods of measurement and evaluation as keys to success. Dr. Okaalet also stated that FBOs need to be “prophetic as we work with people of science.” He closed by saying we must prepare the next generation of leaders for the response to HIV/AIDS and remember the value of prayer in our work.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 08 August 2012 00:01 )