Representatives of faith-based organizations and people of faith living with or affected by HIV will be calling for an even stronger global response to HIV during an interfaith pre-conference held 18-19 July in advance of the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

Speakers include Dr Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS; Ambassador Deborah Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ruth Messinger, President, American Jewish World Service, and Rev. Phumzile Mabizela, Executive Director, International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA+), South Africa.

“Stepping up in Faith: The Interfaith Pre-conference to AIDS 2014” will be held at the Catholic Leadership Centre in Melbourne. The event, open to all with an interest in the faith-based response to HIV, is expected to draw over 100 religious leaders, advocates, youth, people living with HIV, and persons engaged in the on-the-ground response to HIV.

The conference starts with listening to and learning from people of faith openly living with HIV and representatives from key affected populations. Drawing from their personal experiences, panelists will address where the faith-based response to HIV has come from and where it is now.

In a joint plenary session with participants from the Catholic Pre-Conference on HIV, panelists will explore the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the faith community in achieving the goals of zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero stigma and discrimination.

The closing plenary will feature a panel of people under the age of 30 and look especially at equipping individuals, organizations, and the faith community for continued advocacy and action in the years ahead.

In addition, 12 workshops will focus on topics such as the role of faith communities in reaching zero stigma and discrimination, good practices in the faith-based response to HIV, advocacy on scaling up access to treatment, and the post 2015 agenda.

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is the lead international organizer of the interfaith pre-conference, working closely with a 20-member multi-faith global reference group and a faith-based local host committee.

Other Faith-based events at AIDS 2014

An interfaith prayer service will be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral at 7:00 pm Tuesday, 22 July, immediately following the International Candlelight Memorial Vigil.

A Faith Networking Zone, located in the Global Village, will feature sharing, discussions, film screenings, networking, reflection, yoga and meditation.

An Interfaith Prayer Room will be available to AIDS 2014 participants at the Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre for a quiet place for prayer and reflection. A team of Interfaith Chaplains from around the world will be present to offer counseling and spiritual guidance. A daily schedule of organized prayer will be available at the entrance to the room.

For more information, and news on faith-based events and issues throughout the conference, visit www.iacfaith.org, or follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Livethepromise) or Twitter #FaithAIDS2014