RELIGIOUS leaders across the globe have been urged to set examples by testing for HIV, as a way to encourage members to embrace the move.
This formed part of the submissions at the World AIDS Day 2017, held on December 1, 2017, in which the World Council of Churches – Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (WCC-EAA), brought together representatives of faith-based organisations as well as public sector and inter-governmental organisations, at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva.
The event featured commemorative prayer service, an interactive art exhibition, and a round table discussion on how to improve access to testing and treatment for children and adolescents living with HIV, particularly by means of education.
“The World Council of Churches engages in issues of HIV and AIDS through two ecumenical initiatives. But for many of us, we do not just engage in these issues because it is our job, but because of who we are, and where we come from. The challenges of HIV and AIDS are issues that touch and affect us personally,” WCC deputy general secretary, Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri explained.
World AIDS Day 2017 also marked a symbolic end to the WCC’s campaign entitled, Leading by Example: Religious Leaders and HIV Testing, through which more than 1,000 religious leaders around the world have spoken up publicly to encourage HIV testing.
“While we will continue to mobilise religious leaders in promoting HIV testing, in the next few years we will be fast-tracking our efforts towards the rights and lives of children and adolescents living with HIV,” said Francesca Merico, coordinator of the WCC-EAA HIV Campaign.
“What may sometimes sound quite technical is actually very simple. There is a lack of access to testing for children. And what is more, there is a lack of appropriate, child-friendly medicines to treat HIV. This is why we have to mobilise all sectors to get children and adolescents to know their status, access medication, and stay on treatment. Because if you are HIV positive and you do not have access to testing and treatment, you will not survive,” Merico said.
Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo, general secretary of the International Catholic Migration Commission, spoke on the role of faith-based organisations in responding to the HIV epidemic.