More International Recognition, Funding Needed for African Churches’ HIV/AIDS Efforts; Churches Must Change Negative Attitudes, Report Says
African churches need more international recognition and funding as they continue to support people who are living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, but they also must change their attitudes concerning condom use and the stigma associated with the disease, according to a report by Tearfund, BBC News reports. The report, titled "Faith Untapped," features the U.S. approach to supporting faith-based organizations in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It estimates that the value of churches' HIV prevention and care efforts in Africa amounts to about $23 billion annually (McGivering, BBC News, 8/6). "There are more than 250,000 congregations in the AIDS belt of East and Southern Africa, more than enough to support the region's 12 million AIDS orphans," the report says. According to the report, if churches were able to extend their work into preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission, many of the 600,000 new annual HIV cases could be prevented (Tearfund release, 6/8). Some analysts expressed concern about the churches' promotion of abstinence programs and their failure to talk openly about sex and condom use, according to BBC News (BBC News, 8/6). Churches must "look again at their own attitudes [concerning] gender, sex and HIV and AIDS and recognize the part they often play in fueling stigma and discrimination," the report says, adding, "Too often church leaders fail to talk openly about sex and so miss the opportunity to change attitudes and behavior." African churches are ideally placed to save thousands of lives, the report says, concluding, "It is now time for recognition and investment to help churches become one of the world's most effective responses to the global AIDS crisis" (Tearfund release, 6/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.