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UNAIDS head says churches critical to fight

Church and faith-based activists at the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok were told that their involvement is important in the battle against AIDS because their presence will outlast that of other individuals and organisations.

"Political systems come and go, politicians, businesses and UN organizations come and go, but the long-term perspective, the memory and the future is with faith-based organisations and religions," said UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot. "That perspective is what has been missing in our response to the AIDS epidemic."

Meanwhile, in a statement before this week's conference, the British Caritas organisation CAFOD described the event as a "pivotal moment in the battle against HIV and AIDS" if it iks able to deliver on its "Access for all" title.

CAFOD said "Access for all" must also mean access for faith-based organisations. The organisation welcomed the unprecedented number of faith-based organisation given a high profile at the Bangkok meeting.

CAFOD's HIV/AIDS Advisor Ann Smith, who is presenting a paper at the conference, said:, "The title "Access for all" must be developed beyond a headline grabbing slogan. Access for all has to be about making resources and skills available to everyone - from scientists, to community leaders, to religious workers.

"HIV prevention and care is often reduced to one line facile solutions. Groups are polarised behind these banners that don't take into account the wider context of the HIV pandemic. CAFOD is calling for a wider understanding that allows for all the different actors, including faith-based organisations, to play a role.

In related news from Australia, Uniting Church National President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, yesterday welcomed a doubling of Australian Government funding to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS.

"We applaud the Government for committing an extra $300 million to combat the virus in the Asia-Pacific region - a region where last year 1 million people were infected and half a million people died."

Churches, temples and mosques are crucial says UNAIDS chief (Ecumenical News International 12/7/04)
Church Welcomes Boost To HIV Funding (UCA National Assembly 12/7/04)
Aids conference must mean "Access for all" (CAFOD 6/7/04)

XV International AIDS Conference, Bangkok
Faith, Knowledge & Care: Promoting Access for All - African Jesuit AIDS Network Powerpoint Presentation
U.N.: Asia Is Becoming the Heartland of AIDS ( 7/7/04)
Catholic Church Leads in Antiretroviral Therapy (Catholic Information Service for Africa 6/7/04)
Austen Ivereigh: Catholics, condoms and Africa
Catholic Church rolls out Aids drug programme (Mail & Guardian 6/7/04)
AIDS conference must live up to 'Access for all' (Independent Catholic News 6/7/04)
Australian AIDS Fund Inc.
Health & Development Networks
Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance

13 Jul 2004