As I prepare to serve on a discussion panel tomorrow with Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, Raj Shah of USAID, Lois Quam of the U.S. State Department, and others, I am amazed and humbled by what the international faith community has helped to accomplish over the past decade in rolling back the tide of AIDS, caring for those afflicted and preventing new HIV infections.
Worldwide infection is down
The 2011 UNAIDS report shows that HIV incidence has declined in 33 countries, 22 of them in sub-Saharan Africa, the region most affected by the AIDS pandemic. 400,000 new HIV Infections in children are estimated to have been averted since 1995. More HIV positive people than ever before are now receiving life-saving antiretroviral therapy – about half of the people who qualify worldwide.
This progress is the result of a worldwide collaborative effort. As part of that effort, thousands of the world’s best minds, biggest hearts, and most able hands are gathering in Washington, D.C. this week for the 19th International AIDS Conference – the first time this important event has been held in the U.S. in over 20 years.
And while we should indeed celebrate the positive gains that have been made over the past decade, the discussions in Washington this week will be largely focused on what it will take to finish the job—to create an AIDS-free generation!
The faith community’s important role
The faith community has played a significant role in the global fight against HIV and AIDS over the past decade. It has been asserted by some that as much as 40 percent of healthcare in the developing world is provided by faith-based organizations.
This significant presence of Christian churches and faith-based, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the health arena has had a major impact on millions of people. Churches often engage in outreach by providing solace, comfort, help and support to people who are either infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Faith-based NGOs engage in HIV/AIDS treatment, care, and prevention as well as maternal and child health programs that improve the general level of well-being among those vulnerable groups.
Getting our voice heard
It’s important that the voice of the faith community be heard and understood during the International AIDS Conference. With that in mind, Food for the Hungry (FH) is partnering with World Vision, Catholic Relief Services and Saddleback Church to host the “Summit on the Role of the Christian Faith Community in Global Health and HIV/AIDS” tomorrow, July 25, at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Our goal is to highlight the important responsibility the faith community has had and continues to have in both global health and combating HIV/AIDS. I will serve on a panel designed to create dialog between our government and people from the faith community who have hands-on experience with HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment.
You can help create an AIDS-free generation
I invite you to join us in praying for an AIDS-free generation during the next decade. You can also support FH’s efforts to help stop the spread of infection, provide care for people with HIV/AIDS and help mitigate the impact to affected children, families and communities. Thank you for doing your part!