Religious Leadership

Religious Leadership in Response to HIV

Religious Leadership

in Response to HIV

A Summit of High Level Religious Leaders

22-23 March 2010

The Netherlands

Challenging Stigma and Discrimination,

HIV prevention in action


We, the participants of this Summit of High Level Religious Leaders on the response to HIV, meeting at Den Dolder in The Netherlands, 22-23 March 2010, have recognized the scale and continued progression of the HIV pandemic globally., We have joined together as leaders in the Baha’ί, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and indigenous traditions, people living with HIV from within and outside of our faith communities, representatives of networks and organizations active in the response to HIV, political leaders and leaders of UN agencies. Almost thirty years after the first identification of HIV, inspite of the science which has been developed, and inspite of the considerable moral and material resourses on our side, continue to see a growing pandemic. The pandemic grows exponentially as for every two people put on treatment there are another five people newly infected. Changing the current trajectory of the HVI pandemic will involve holistic prevention including Safer Practices, Available medical and nutritional interventions, Voluntary counselling and testing and Empowerment (SAVE). In addition the prevention must challenge stigma, shame, denial, discrimination, inaction and misaction. (SSDDIM)

We acknowledge the important role of the faith community in the pandemic so far, particularly relating to treatment, care and support. We acknowledge that people have at times been at the receiving end of judgement, rejection and a limited ability to embrace and affirm humanity in its diversity. We need to find ways of closing the gap between faith communities and people who have not always felt welcome in faith communities. We reconise and embrace the call on all religious leaders and communities to respond urgently and inclusively to challenges posed by HIV and AIDS not only in relation to treatment care and support, but also the prevention of HIV transmission.

HIV affects every human being, every women and man, every child, every community. Stigma and discrimination foster and environment which exacerbates vulnerability to HIV infection that would not exist if we could collectively create a safe environment of acceptance and inclusion relating to HIV. Secrecy keeps a variety of vulnerable populations from accessing prevention services, testing and treatment in relation to HIV.

Social and economic conditions create a climate within which the vulnerability that drives the HIV pandemic grows. This is exacerbated by the increasing dislocation of families and communities through economic and humanitarian crises. We need to religion our messaged to speak and act not only for personal morality, but for corporate morality addressing responsibility for financial, social and economic justice. The HIV pandemic is both complex and multifaceted and demands that we work together. Working out of our areas of strength, we can achieve Universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support.

As such we call for:

Universal respect for the dignity of every human being

The eradication of stigma and discrimination in all its manifestations towards people living with HIV regardless of how they became infected.

Health and HIV to remain key priorities on the global funding agenda, despite the current financial crisis A massive social mobilization to prevent all transmission of HIV from mother to child Men strongly engage, alongside the women’s movement, in action to end all forms of violence against women and girls.

Countries to know their own pandemic and to respond to all vulnerable people within their countries, including men, commercial sex workers, women, people who use drugs, children, men who have sex with men and religious leaders.

We commit ourselves to a partnership between faith communities, broader civil society, government and other international partners, always involving people living with HIV at all levels. We choose to hold each other accountable in this partnership, eradicating stigma and discrimination and jointly enabling the universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support which will lead us to a new world, a world of respect, justice, love and dignity for all of God’s children.

Together We Must Do More

My Personal Commitment to Action

As a religious leader, I am convinced that my faith must be more visible and active to halt the spread of HIV and reverse this pandemic.

For three decades now, HIV has continued to spread across all levels of our societies. Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV continues to fuel ignorance, injustice, denial and hate. At this critical point in the epidemic, I need to be clear in my words and actions that stigma and discrimination towards people living with or affected by HIV is unacceptable.

Fundamental to my faith is the respect for human dignity and the value of human life. Such respect and value is central to my response to HIV.

Therefore, I commit to exercising stronger, more visible, and practical leadership in the response to the HIV pandemic- increasing commitment, deepening meaningful engagement with people living with people living with HIV, and acting decisively to protect human rights within my faith community; through collaboration among other religious leaders of different faiths; and by influencing local, national, regional and global- decision making process on HIV.

Conscious of the specific needs of all those affected by HIV, this leadership means.

To people living with HIV, I commit myself to:

- Working tirelessly to end all stigmatizing attitude and actions until people living with HIV are fully included in our religious communities and societies.

- Supporting concerted efforts and partnerships to provide support including health care and education in ways that respect privacy and dignity;

- Seeking to understand and respond to the specific needs and situations of different communities affected by HIV to enable all people living with HIV to participate fully in society.

- Providing spiritual support and resources to give hope and enable positive living, assuring you that HIV cannot separate you from love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness.

To children,I commit to:

- Recognizing your rights, including health, education and support, that will help you celebrate childhood and learn values and ethical practices for safer and healthier living.

To young, I commit to:

- Listening to your needs and empowering you with the values and support to help protect you, young girls, from violence and suppression and you, young boys, from behaviours that create risks for yourself and others;

- Enabling and facilitating your leadership and participation.

To women and girls, I commit to:

- Recognizing your special vulnerability and roles as caregivers and mothers and working tirelessly to ensure you have the services you require for prevention, treatment, care and support.

- Exercising respect and challenging any oppressive systems of power within my religious community and society which fuel violence and injustice;

- Providing space for your voice and leadership in our communities.

To men and boys, I commit to:

- Encouraging understanding of power that allows people to relate to one another with dignity and love.

- Supporting leadership and decision making that addresses the root causes of HIV.

To my religious community, I commit to:

- Doing all I can to break the barriers of silence and exclusion to fully and openly include people living with HIV and their families in our religious communities.

- Leading by example and encouraging my religious community to deepen its engagement in the response to HIV, including advocating for prevention, treatment, care and support for all.

To networks, organizations and public institutions, I commit to:

- Fully supporting all efforts to extend services and support that will enable an HIV-free generation by 2015.

- Challenging and supporting governments to meet their moral duty to implement their promises on HIV in their priorities, practices and financial support.

- Partnering with you to combine our experiences, approaches and expertise to reach our common goal of halting the spread of HIV and reversing the pandemic.

To those I am addressing in this pledge and to other religious leaders who join me in this covenant/pledge, I commit to:

- Reporting through available channels every 18 months how I have worked to fulfill my pledge.