As the world commemorates this year’s World AIDS Day, World Vision Southern Africa is bringing to the fore its accomplishments in mobilizing faith communities to become part of the response to HIV and AIDS. The theme for this year is ‘HIV prevention’.
Over the years, through support from World Vision, faith leaders have actively played a key role in providing physical, spiritual, psychological and other forms of care and support to both people affected and infected with HIV and AIDS.
Previously, some saw faith leaders as barriers to efforts to respond to HIV and AIDS, arguing that they were contributing to stigma and discrimination. But today World Vision believes that this perception has largely changed and faith leaders are now perceived as part of the solution.
Using the well acclaimed Channels of Hope model, that uses Bible teachings to inspire and motivate faith leaders and their communities, World Vision has been able to effectively mobilize and involve the faith community in HIV prevention care and support interventions and to tackle stigma and discrimination.
In many instances, faith leaders now live by example, share their HIV status openly and motivate congregations to rise up and get involved in HIV prevention, care and support programs.
World Vision Southern Africa director for Health, Nutrition and HIV, Dr Steven Malinga believes the role of the faith community in fighting stigma and discrimination is particularly vital if the 90-90-90 UNAIDS targets are to be achieved as stigma and discrimination are among key barriers to achieving these targets. The targets refer to ensuring 90% of people living with HIV are diagnosed by 2020, 90% of diagnosed people on are antiretroviral treatment by 2020 and 90% of people in treatment with fully suppressed viral load by 2020.
“In World Vision-supported programs the faith community has been instrumental in uniting discordant couples, families affected by HIV related gender based violence and supporting vulnerable children.
It has been very fulfilling to partner with and to see the results that have been accomplished through faith leaders and their communities,” says Dr Malinga.
In addition to its work with faith communities, World Vision’s efforts with other stakeholders have seen levels of mother to child transmission drop, more people put on antiretroviral therapy and the reduction in the number of HIV related deaths
He says that the end of AIDS is now considered feasible by 2030, a scenario that was unimaginable some years ago. However, he believes there is still more work to be done.
“The theme for this year – HIV prevention – is very critical if the world is to realize the end of AIDS hence World Vision is proud to reiterate its continued partnership with governments, communities and other stakeholders to actively engage in the response to HIV and AIDS and improve access to HIV prevention and care and treatment services,” Dr Malinga says.
Looking forward to the years running up to 2020, World Vision is set to continue working with communities, governments, faith leaders and other partners to achieve the 90-90-90 targets.
In line with World Vision’s strategy, efforts will particularly be targeted towards elimination of new infections among children; ensuring children affected by HIV survive and thrive. Focus also remains on adolescents as well as tackling stigma and discrimination.