UNAIDS launches framework for partnership with religious organizations

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UNAIDS launches framework for partnership with religious organizations

07 December 2009

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UNAIDS has launched a new strategic framework for partnership with Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) in its response to HIV at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. It is evidence of stronger partnerships between UNAIDS and FBOs.

Faith-Based Organizations have been major providers of HIV-related services. The World Health Organization estimates that faith-based groups provide between 30% and 70% of all healthcare in Africa. In some areas, faith-based hospitals or clinics are the only health-care facilities that exist. FBOs are also a major source of AIDS funding, particularly in some of the least developed countries.

The goal of the framework is to encourage stronger partnerships between UNAIDS and FBOs in order to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. It includes the integration of FBOs in comprehensive national AIDS responses.

UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Papua New Guinea, Dr Tim Rwabuhemba, presented the report titled Engaging Faith-Based Organizations for the MDGs: the UN Experience to Parliament of the World’s Religions which runs until 09 December in Melbourne.

Dr Rwabuhemba communicated a message of support from UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, “This is a unique achievement. The framework is not about how the UN system can help FBOs, but rather about how UNAIDS and the faith-based community can work together to achieve joint goals, build commitment and shared ownership; with a common resolve to achieve results in achieving universal access.”

The framework is the result of an 18-month consultation process between the UNAIDS Secretariat and Cosponsors, FBOs, networks of people living with HIV, government representatives and technical experts.

The framework is designed to encourage global and national religious leaders to take supportive public action in the AIDS response and create strong partnerships between UNAIDS and established FBOs working on HIV.

It also aims to promote strengthened links, including coordination and oversight, with FBOs at the country level to ensure that there is an appropriate interface as part of a comprehensive national AIDS response.

It hopes to target FBOs not yet working on HIV and mobilise local faith communities to become involved in the local AIDS response.

UNAIDS already collaborates with a wide range of larger FBOs, such as the World Conference for Religion and Peace, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, the Tearfund, Caritas Internationalis, World Vision, Positive Muslims, the Buddhist Sangha Metta Project and the Art of Living Foundation.

The framework is intended to provide a structure for the development of ongoing workplans and partnerships in response to AIDS by the UNAIDS Secretariat, Cosponsors and FBOs.

Public positions, statements and responses of some FBOs have ranged, on occasion, from the unhelpful to the deeply harmful or hurtful, increasing rather than diminishing HIV-related stigma.

UNAIDS, through this framework, is now hoping to look beyond the prejudices and create partnerships based on mutual trust and respect and with joint commitments to achieving universal access targets.

The framework details that FBOs need to work towards ending stigma and discrimination and include people living with HIV in the design, programming, implementation, research, monitoring and evaluation of programmes and in decision-making processes.

UNAIDS, meanwhile, will advocate for FBOs and other organizations to be appropriately funded so that they can play a role commensurate with their capacities in supporting the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of national AIDS plans.