Faith-Based Groups From United States, Africa Join To Combat HIV/AIDS
Twenty-two representatives of churches and mosques in several countries in Africa are attending a six-week AIDS education and advocacy training course organized by the Balm in Gilead, a U.S. coalition of more than 12,000 predominantly African-American churches, Long Island Newsday reports. In what is reportedly the first program of its kind, the Balm in Gilead has brought together counselors, health educators, clergy members and researchers to train delegates from Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe -- countries that are among those "hardest hit" by the disease. The organization is conducting the program under an agreement with the CDC, according to Newsday. Participating U.S. institutions include the CDC, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, the Black Church HIV/AIDS Training Institute and other organizations. The training course, for which the Balm in Gilead and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have contributed $2 million, is part of the African HIV/AIDS Faith Initiative, a larger Gilead effort to build the capacity of churches and faith-based groups to combat the epidemic in the five targeted countries. The Balm in Gilead has established offices in each of the countries to provide technical support for AIDS education and outreach efforts. The representatives who are currently undergoing training will return to their home countries to train clergy to educate their congregations about AIDS. "This is the first time an African-American organization has gone to Africa to say we want to partner with you," Pernessa Seele, founder and CEO of the Balm in Gilead, said, adding, "HIV intervention must come from African people. Only Africans understand African traditions." The initiative is modeled on AIDS programs in Uganda, including the "ABC" prevention model -- abstain, be faithful and use condoms "as a last resort," Seele said. "I see a bright future for the faith community in addressing the AIDS problem in Nigeria. This is the first time Christians and Muslims are coming together. What is binding us is the issue of AIDS," Rev. Kaine Nwashili, national director of the Interfaith HIV/AIDS Council of Nigeria and a trainee, said (English, Long Island Newsday, 4/6).
Faith-Based Approach to AIDS Initiative Needed, Opinion States
A faith-based approach to fighting HIV/AIDS internationally, including the ABC approach, has a "scientifically supported base" and is also "the right thing to do," Anne Peterson, assistant administrator for global health for USAID, writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. Partnerships between USAID, host-country governments and faith- and community-based groups are crucial in fighting AIDS, because such groups provide "cultural sensitivity and cohesiveness with their communities," Peterson states, adding that for international and donor organizations to accept this approach, they must be "sensitized to our scientifically proven methods." Peterson concludes that "conservatives must become vigorous and constructive participants in the public policy debate," voicing their support for the international fight against AIDS (Peterson, Washington Times, 4/6).