Press Release
Press release: Faith leaders need to show the way in fighting HIV and AIDS stigma

This week CAFOD and three of its partners from Ethiopia, Uganda and Mexico will join hundreds of global faith leaders at the Washington DC Global HIV and AIDS conference.

For more than 25 years, this international conference has played a central role in the global response to HIV and AIDS, marking the evolution of the epidemic and serving as a forum for debate on key themes and presentations of scientific advances.

CAFOD’s HIV Manager Georgia Burford said: “CAFOD’s participation in this conference is important because it enables us to stay informed about the latest news and projects in the fight against HIV and AIDS, and ensures we continue to learn and challenge ourselves and deliver the best projects we can for the people and communities we support.”

CAFOD will be presenting a paper on its Stigma Reduction Initiative programmes in Kenya, Ethiopia and Zambia, highlighting the vital role the Church plays in tackling HIV and AIDS, and breaking down stigma in their communities.

Globally, the spread of HIV has halted and begun to reverse. In low and middle income countries, 5.2 million people are receiving treatment. The number of children born with HIV has reduced from 500,000 children in 2001 to 370,000 in 2009. These gains have shown what can be achieved when the international community works together to tackle barriers and ensure an effective and sustainable response to HIV and AIDS. However, the stark reality is that 33.3 million people are living with HIV and nine million are still in need of treatment, and stigma and discrimination remain one of the key barriers for people to access HIV treatment, care and support.
Many men and women in communities where CAFOD partners work are scared even to get tested for HIV because of what their families and neighbours might think. They are nervous to start treatment even when it is available in case someone finds out and they lose their job or even their home.

As part of the Stigma Initiative over 200 faith leaders are being supported to develop ways to reduce stigma in their communities. Yared Degefu, a member of CAFOD’s HIV team in Ethiopia, noted how this project is already
bringing change in people’s lives. A woman who benefited from the Stigma Initiative told him: “This has been a way of bringing change because now I know more. I lost my job. I had to leave it because I was sick. But now I feel I can do something again.”

For more details please contact Nana Anto-Awuakye, Senior Media Officer Tel: 020 7095-5456 email: nanto-awuakye@cafod.org.uk

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