The formation of ANERELA + was inspired by, amongst others, The Rev. Canon Gideon Byamugisha, who was one of the first practicing religious leaders in Africa to break the silence, negative attitudes, fear, stigma/discrimination and denial associated with HIV and AIDS by declaring publicly that he was living with HIV in 1992. Whilst celebrating Canon Gideon Byamugisha’s 10 years of living openly with HIV, a group of religious leaders met in 2002 at Mukono, Uganda for a working retreat. Members of the retreat decided to form a network specifically aimed at helping religious leaders in Africa who are living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS. The main aim was to help these leaders to live openly so that they can become agents of change by breaking the six evils: Stigma, Shame, Discrimination, Denial, Inaction and Misaction (SSDDIM). The network was formed and formally named African Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV or AIDS (ANERELA+).
The official registration took place in March of 2004 in South Africa. The network has since changed its name to INERELA+ because of the geographical spread of its membership in other continents. Currently INERELA+ has 19 networks across Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America, with a global membership of over 10,000. The network’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it is able to challenge the societal and religious norms and gaps which put people at risk of contracting HIV.
The INERELA+ Secretariat, based in Johannesburg South Africa, provides co-ordination and technical support to all the networks. The national networks are constituted and managed by ordained and lay religious leaders, who are living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS. Thus, the national networks are able to use their presence and social capital in communities to advocate for effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.