- WCC group evaluates ecumenical HIV and AIDS response
June 29, 2015As the meeting closed on 26 June in Limuru, Kenya, the outgoing chairperson of the International Reference Group (IRG) of the WCC’s Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy (EHAIA), Astrid Berner Rodoreda, recalled the reticence that surrounded the topic of sexuality in church circles when the group first came together in 2003.
Rodoreda, who is also the HIV senior adviser for the German organization Bread for the World, was accompanied by her successor, Bishop Godson Lawson of Togo and Rev. Dr Nyambura Njoroge, EHAIA programme executive. The group noted that, from the beginning, they realized that, since HIV and AIDS are sexually transmitted infections, the church could not help people cope with the challenges without addressing sexuality, a difficult subject in many churches and taboo in many wider communities.
At the beginning, churches still had a long way to go in addressing not only the subject of sexuality but the even more sensitive topics of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI).
Bishop Lawson, a Methodist minister, noted, however, that when the IRG was established, HIV was low on churches’ agenda, but today, most member churches have set up HIV and AIDS desks.
Rodoreda also commented on the 90-90-90 concept and the current status of the HIV and AIDS pandemic. The concept seeks to have 90 percent of people living with HIV knowing their sero-status by 2020. Out of that percentage, 90 percent should be on treatment by 2020, and out of the latter group, 90 percent should have an undetectable viral load to stop the spread of HIV.
The outgoing EHAIA chairperson said setbacks persist because many countries no longer view HIV and AIDS as an emergency largely because of free anti-retroviral (ARV) programmes. And yet, “a lot of people are being put on treatment, but a lot of them are falling out,” she said.
Part of the problem lay in the much-hyped faith-healing, which makes people on ARVs throw them away on assumption that they are healed, only for them to develop resistance to the virus, for which there is no known cure. “At the moment, we do not have an alternative to ARVs,” she stressed.
Rodoreda commended EHAIA for its initiatives in transformative masculinities, which acknowledge the importance of involving men in ending sexual and gender-based violence.
Bishop Lawson described a youth manual on stigma and discrimination as an important output of EHAIA work. The last session of the meeting was dedicated to adolescents—an important population segment in addressing HIV and AIDS.
This was capped by a public lecture at the St Paul’s University Limuru by Rev. Phumzile Mabizela, executive director of the International Network of Religious Leaders living with AIDS (INERELA+). The title of her lecture was “Adolescents, HIV, Sexual Violence and Sexuality”.
Prior to Mabizela’s lecture, the meeting participants and St Paul’s University community officials planted trees in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Tamar project. The initiative draws its name from the biblical Tamar, who was raped by her half-brother, consigning her to a life of social exclusion.
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- INERELA+ Conducts its First SAVE training for Women
November 19, 2014INERELA+ conducted it’s first ever workshop on SAVE for women in Zambia. This workshop was held from 29th to the 31st of July, 2014 and was personally conducted by our very own Executive Director, the Rev’d Phumzile Mabizela. The main aim of the workshop was to inspire Zambian girls and women to have a breakthrough in the way they respond to issues of sexuality, gender, sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV and AIDS and bring about lasting change in their lives.
- Faith-based groups leave Melbourne conference with new commitment to leave no one behind in struggle against HIV and AIDS
August 1, 2014As researchers, activists and policy makers prepare to leave Melbourne at the conclusion of the 20th International AIDS Conference, they possess a new confidence that advances in treatment can mean an eventual end to the AIDS epidemic.Yet new testing mechanisms, antiretroviral medications, and government funding strategies alone won’t be enough to transform HIV infection from a global public health emergency to a manageable chronic disease. Religious leaders who came to Melbourne warn that making real the refrain of “nobody left behind” will also mean recognizing that faith-based groups must continue to play a major role in the comprehensive struggle against the virus.
Luiz Loures, the UNAIDS deputy executive director of program, told religious leaders on the eve of the conference that a complete response to the epidemic won’t be possible without the continuing involvement of faith-based groups.
“We have the tools. We have the science that we need. Yet there is no way to treat people if they have no access to care because they are afraid, or because they are women, or because they are a migrant, or because they need to hide to survive,” Loures said.
The global AIDS ambassador of the U.S. government, Deborah Birx, told the faith leaders in Melbourne that their “compassion and passion for this work continue to be the heartbeat of the response to HIV,” yet she also expressed concern about the role of some religious groups in fomenting discrimination in Africa, where anti-gay legislation has led to violence against sexual minorities.
The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, a pastor in the United States and executive director of the United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network, said responsible faith leaders need to put their religious houses in order if nobody is going to be left behind.
“Some religious leaders and communities are indeed part of the problem. That’s a challenge for us. We need to create spaces where we can engage in dialogue, and appeal to the sense of empathy and compassion that almost every faith community carries. We need to hold each other accountable, and that may require some of us to more boldly confront the negative rhetoric that causes harm, puts people at risk, and supports laws that criminalize HIV, sexuality and gender identity,” he said.
The Rev. Phumzile Mabizela, a South African Presbyterian minister, said the anti-gay legislation is setting back the struggle against AIDS.
“The new laws and even the discussion of the new laws have promoted a lot of fear. People are scared of going to clinics or hospitals. They don’t know whom to trust,” said Mabizela, the executive director of the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA+).
“We as a faith community should stand up and fight against this. It puts the lives of our most at-risk communities even more at risk. The more we discriminate against them, the more we stigmatize them, and the less likely they are to come forward for the resources they need.”
While homophobia is provoking violence in some areas, complacency has become ...
- Dialogue on Transformative Theological Reflections: Sexual Diversity: Act of faith: Embracing Diversity!
August 29, 2013INERELA+ Presents:
Dialogue on Transformative Theological Reflections: Sexual Diversity:
Act of faith: Embracing Diversity!
2-5th September Johannesburg, SA.
The dialogue seeks to challenge all forms of discrimination: religious, sexism, homophobia, violence, and criminalization targeting sexual minorities.
The event is multi-faith and open attendance to people who can cover all costs.
For more information email:email@example.com or click on Event information.
- Denial, Stigma and Truth
October 29, 2012I am reading an interesting little book called “the Joy Diet” by Martha Beck. I am mostly not into popular psychology but I do enjoy her writing and she does tell very funny stories. At the moment I am reading about “Truth”. Now I do not want to go into a large discussion about truth but she did say, and I paraphrase, denial is a tool we haul out when the truth would rock the our lives. This small little sentence really hit me like a ton of bricks, and the question for me is “what are the truths about HIV that are being denied so that I can live in my safe little world?”. So here, today I am going to try some truth telling for myself.
One of the fundamental truths for me about HIV is that it follows the fault-lines of our society. It finds the marginal, the desperate, the poor and exploits their vulnerability. A good example for me are sex workers. Now, time for confession, I had always thought that sex workers (in my self righteousness I called them prostitutes) were very much below me. They had failed, sinned and were generally worthy of pity. And then, I accompanied a friend to a local clinic for an HIV test. This was in the early 1990′s and ARV’s were not widely available and basically an HIV diagnosis was an effective death sentence. As we sat, chatting and trying not to be nervous she told me that she was sleeping with older men so that she could pay her University fees. I was 18 and very much a prude – I don’t think I could even talk about sex without blushing? What was I to do? I believed I had various options; run from the building screaming, or start quoting religious texts, or simply sit? I must admit I was appalled, but I continued sitting. We talked about why her life had lead to this point, we talked about my shock and my urgent need to run away, we talked about our hopes and dreams after we had finished our degrees. We simply talked. Our lives have taken very different paths and I am not even sure I would recognise her in the local supermarket now but I remember the lesson – this could have been me. I was privileged enough to have parents who could afford my University fees, I lived at home with three good meals a day, I had a car and was able to move around at will. I was surrounded by people who loved and cared for me. I was not vulnerable to HIV transmission and infection.
I think we all have stories like this, when our prejudices and pre-conceptions are confronted by human beings that we know and love. Around HIV these stories are so important because they make statistics, people again. Instead of a “prostitute” I had a friend and together we worked out how to keep her safe from HIV. I ...
- Booth 655 – Global Village (Aids2012)
July 21, 2012INERELA+ booth prep is under way. Come to booth 655 in the Global Village and chat to our members.
- Let’s talk about SAVE
July 21, 2012The INERELA+ SAVE Prevention methodology training is underway at the Interfaith Pre-Conference. Leading the session is lead by Rev’d Fr. JP Mokegethi-Health. Let’s hope they learn and enjoy it.
- Dignity plenary
July 20, 2012Two of our members are onstage preparing to speak about Dignity at the interfaith pre-conference. Swami Adayananda and Rev Fr JP Mokgethi-Heath. Wish them luck.
Go to the INERELA+ group page on Facebook to see highlights from todays events posted by EAA.
- 1 down 2 to go.
July 20, 2012It’s finally the end of the day and I am happy to report that the INERELA+ General Conference, AGM and Board meeting have all been super successful. Amazing vision, stories and reports were shared by INERELA+ members. The spirit of partnership and support is alive and there are plans being made that will really bring the INERELA+ family closer together.
It was an honour and pleasure to be present for this meeting.
The meeting also was the last time that Executive Director The Rev’d Fr. JP Mokgethi-Heath was able to address such a global representation of INERELA+ membership. Much live and support and appreciation was directed toward as he did the closing speech.
I wish to thank everyone who attended for their support, engagement and vision.
INERELA+ members can now focus on being involved and engaged during the EAA multi-faith pre-conference. Let’s hope these next few days are just as amazing.
- It has begun.
July 17, 2012The INERELA+ General Conference is off to a great start. Looking forward to an amazing two days.
INERELA+ is honored to be hosted by the historic Howard University in DC for our 2012 General Conference. We are having our meeting the in beautiful building that is the founders library.
40 of our global members have traveled to attend this exciting event.
While here they will share their stories, best practice for programmes and vision for the future of INERELA+. We are grateful for safe journeys and hope that our time together yields fantastic results.
- INERELA+ meets Don the web guy
July 16, 2012INERELA+ meeting with Don who developed out new and vibrant web site. It’s always lovely when you can meet people fact to face, rather than just chatting over skype. a HUGE thank you to Don for all of his hard work.
- Thanks CIFA for the office space
July 10, 2012We’re so thankful for the office space at the Washington National Cathedral provided by CIFAduring AIDS2012.
- We’re Here in Washington, Getting Ready for General Conference!
July 7, 2012The first staffers have started to arrive in Washington, DC in preparation for the INERELA+ General Conference, as well as AIDS 2012 and all the other affiliated events.
Greeting us is the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a different portion of which is being displayed each day on the National Mall between the US Capitol and Washington Monument.
In fact, a panel from the quilt was blessed by our Patron, Bishop Desmond Tutu before it traveled from Cape Town to Washington.
For more details about the quilt in DC, visit http://quilt2012.org/.
- New INERELA+ Posters for the International AIDS Conference
July 3, 2012Thanks to our friend Dean Russell (dean-russell.co.uk) we have wonderful new posters to display at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC. Check them out!
Click here to download a PDF containing all the posters
- Washington, Here We Come!
June 30, 2012In just a few days the team from INERELA+ makes their way to America and to a series of meetings and conferences held in conjunction with the World AIDS Conference 2012 in Washington, DC.
Check out site regularly for blog posts from our trip!