Interfaith activists at last week’s anti-AIDS conference in Ivory Coast pushed for an expanded role for progressive faith-based groups in combating HIV and AIDS.
Statement by the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa, issued at the 19th session of the ICASA conference, held in Côte d’Ivoire, Dec 4-9, 2017:
Our Network is a regional network of activists, faith-based individuals, advocates and individual activists working for inclusion of diverse persons to create a world governed by respect and dignity. We seek a day where all persons irrespective of religious beliefs become great allies in the quest for a safe and free society for all humans.We the members of Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa attending the 19th Session of the ICASA conference in Côte d’Ivoire sincerely wish to thank African governments for the commitments towards ending HIV and AIDS in Africa. We thank the government of Côte d’Ivoire for hosting the conference successfully. We also thank our governments for the opportunity to connect activists, HIV experts and those infected and affected by HIV to learn and share!
We acknowledge the lofty roles played by development partners, researchers, individuals and actors in different fields towards ending the impact of HIV and AIDs especially in West Africa.
We commend countries and institutions that have realised the role faith-based groups and individuals play and can play towards ending HIV and AIDS considering the strategic position faith groups occupy.
We however bring governments attention to the critical role faith-based groups can play if HIV is to become history in Africa!
There are myths and stereotypes around HIV and the mode of infection-the role of faith-based groups who have large followership is critical in demystifying this situation especially in the fight to end new HIV infections.There is an urgent need to support the role of faith-based groups and individuals in the planning and implementation of HIV and AIDS interventions in our countries to ensure uptake by service recipients.
Faith based groups have a critical role to play in supporting HIV programming including condom promotion and integration of HIV services and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Services.
There should be collaborations between faith-based agencies and governments towards ending stigma and discrimination which fuels non-disclosure and poor service uptake.
Governments should partner with faith-based groups to end all forms of compulsory HIV testing as required by some faith-based groups.
Faith-based groups have a role to play in demanding removal of barriers such as punitive laws that affect uptake of HIV/AIDS services.
Faith-based groups have a role to play in ensuring that quality and people friendly services are provided in a friendly and non-judgmental environment.
Finally relevant government agencies should ensure robust involvement of faith-based groups to understand the various means of contracting HIV and promote messages of love and peace amongst faith-based groups and individuals around the West Africa sub-region
Signed: Davis Mac-Iyalla
Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNOWA)