Feature story

Building faith-based partnerships to end AIDS and TB among children and adolescents

28 September 2018

Faith-based organizations have long played a critical role in the response to tuberculosis (TB). Many faith-based health service providers have implemented effective TB/HIV responses modelled on decades of work on TB. Today, faith-based organizations are delivering effective, high-quality TB/HIV services that complement national public health programmes in the countries most affected by TB and HIV.

Successful TB/HIV responses address both the biomedical and the social determinants that underpin these illnesses, such as poverty, inequality, situations of conflict and crisis, compromised human rights and criminalization. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to infection and the impact of TB/HIV on their families. Because they have positions of trust at the heart of communities, faith-based organizations can provide services and support that extend beyond the reach of many public sector health systems.

To provide an opportunity to strengthen relationships and forge new partnerships, on 27 September the World Council of Churches–Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, in collaboration with UNAIDS, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the United Nations Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development, hosted an interfaith prayer breakfast on the sidelines of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, United States of America. Keynote speakers and table discussions focused on the outcomes of the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis, which took place on 26 September, and examined how the longstanding experience of faith-based organizations in responding to TB/HIV can support the new declarations agreed by Member States during the historic high-level meeting.

The participants included faith leaders and health service providers from different religious traditions. Survivors of multidrug-resistant TB brought a powerful sense of urgency and reality to the discussion. The participants renewed their call to national governments to not only maintain, but increase, support in order to end AIDS and TB as public health threats by 2030.


“We are grateful for the advocates who call us out when things don’t go well and hold us to account. I leave here this week grateful that when the community of faith come together with governments and funders we can achieve our goals. You make us proud.”

Deborah Birx United States Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy

“We need each other. Faith leaders, please help us to end stigma and discrimination. It is unacceptable that 660 children die of tuberculosis each day; 90% of children who die from tuberculosis worldwide are untreated. And just 50% of children living with HIV are on treatment. What is most important is working together with compassion, love, generosity, empathy and kindness—with these, we will change the face of the HIV and tuberculosis epidemics together.”

Michel Sidibé Executive Director, UNAIDS

“For many of us, this is both personal and real. My husband’s grandfather died of tuberculosis when his father was young. Our hope is that this breakfast will strengthen old relationships and build new partnerships to address tuberculosis and HIV with concrete actions that will bring abundant life to all.”

Mary Ann Swenson World Council of Churches

“I saw on the X-ray the big hole in my lung and thought, why did I get multidrug-resistant TB? I had dedicated my life to caring for people. Later, I was fortunate to get on a trial of the first new tuberculosis drug in 40 years. It saved my life and I can now continue to speak and advocate so that many more can live.”

Dalene von Delft multidrug-resistant tuberculosis survivor

“Our response to tuberculosis and AIDS would not have been and will not be the same as it is today without the faith community and now there are five critical actions we need to take together. Educate, advocate and fight stigma. Continue to fight for patient-centred care. Give voice to the voiceless, especially the children. Advocate for resources to end tuberculosis and HIV. Continue to push to make yourselves a part of the discussion.”

Eric Goosby United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Tuberculosis