HIV and AIDS
HIV and AIDS is one of the biggest threats to development in today’s world.
CAFOD is part of a world-wide effort to halt the spread of HIV which has already claimed at least 35 million lives and brought untold catastrophe to millions more. HIV is one of the biggest threats to human life, to the livelihoods of families and to development in the world’s poorest countries.
As one of the first agencies to lobby for HIV to be recognised as a grave development concern, CAFOD has supported a wide range of projects since the mid-1980s and has funded community-based care, prevention and advocacy programmes in Africa, Asia and Latin America. CAFOD works with people of all faiths and none, people from many social backgrounds, those shunned by society and, invariably, the poorest and most vulnerable to HIV. The vast majority of CAFOD’s partners are Church partners and CAFOD upholds the importance of the Church standing alongside those living with, affected by and vulnerable to HIV as part of a concerted, effective response to this pandemic.
CAFOD recognises that the lives of many individuals vulnerable to HIV in countries where we work are complex and that they face difficult practical and moral dilemmas. Their options are too often conditioned by poverty, injustice and discrimination, inequality, violence and others’ abuse of power. Our experience as a Catholic development agency working since 1986 to support effective HIV care and prevention programmes has shown us very clearly that there is no simple solution if HIV prevention is to be effective. CAFOD’s approach to prevention emphasizes the importance of both personal behaviour and social change as key factors to an effective immediate and long-term response.
Regarding personal behavior, CAFOD asks programmes it supports to provide full and accurate information, grounded in scientific evidence, on the effectiveness and limitations of all means of reducing the risks of HIV infection so that people can make the choices that are possible in their circumstances. CAFOD does not support programmes that give false, misleading or incomplete information about HIV prevention. This distorts truth, damages credibility and can alienate rather than engage individuals and groups involved in developing a full and effective HIV prevention strategy. CAFOD does not fund programmes promoting any simplistic, ‘quick-fix’ solutions, or those whose prevention strategy is focused on condom use. CAFOD does not fund the distribution of condoms or other barrier forms of contraception.
CAFOD’s strategy is rooted in Church teaching and is informed by the reflections of theologians and Church leaders over the years. It affirms that it is important that people understand that abstinence and life-long mutual fidelity between uninfected couples remove the risk of sexual transmission, whilst measures such as delaying the age of first sexual relations, reducing the number of sexual partners, and condom use can reduce, although do not completely remove, this risk.
CAFOD recognizes a person’s responsibility to make well-formed decisions about preventing HIV transmission – whether to themselves or to others – that are consistent with their religious convictions and their own conscience informed by their faith, based on their knowledge and understanding of the risks of their individual situation.
Regarding the social change required for effective prevention, CAFOD is committed to addressing also the root causes of HIV vulnerability such as the eradication of poverty, sexual and domestic violence, inequality between men and women, and the imbalances of power between rich and poor which deny access to essentials such as food, water and sustainable energy sources. CAFOD further believes that initiatives that improve the health and economic wellbeing of people living with HIV help to break the cycle of poverty and vulnerability to HIV. In this way, CAFOD’s commitment to ensuring the provision of treatment, wider care and emotional support for people affected by HIV, and to supporting livelihoods and combating HIV-related stigma and discrimination become essential to ensuring HIV prevention is effective.