Questions about the role that
religion and faith-based organizations (FBO) can play in addressing
the HIV/AIDS epidemic have been few during this IAC. The satellite
session "The Global P.E.A.C.E. Coalition Model: Teaming Public, Private
and Faith Sectors" chaired by Dr. Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback
Church sought to illustrate what they deemed to be a new model of collaboration
to successfully address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This model asserts that
NGOs and governments can not, and will not succeed without bringing
in the faith sector.
The guiding premise behind this model is that a majority of people globally
belong to some sort of faith tradition, whose religious institutions
and places of worship are more pervasive and accessible than health
care institutions. In the Western Province of Rwanda, for example, while
there are only 3 hospitals and 26 clinics serving 650,000 individuals,
often at a great distance from their homes, there are 726 local churches
for the same number of people.
FBOs have a long history in providing HIV/AIDS related services, demonstrating
remarkable expertise in areas such as care of orphans and hospice care.
The challenge, however, is whether that same moral framework which guides
religious institutions to conduct outreach and serve the "least among
us", might also impede the ability to deliver the full range of information
and services that evidence has shown to be necessary in addressing the
epidemic. Comprehensive HIV prevention necessitates addressing a range
of issues regarding sexuality which some deem contradictory to their
religious beliefs. Geographic accessibility, therefore, should not mean
that FBOs are the primary choice for delivery of all HIV services.
Donors and policy makers must select implementing organizations based
on their ability to sound, evidence-based public health programs, and
not simply because they are in the neighborhood.