Interfaith Support for HIV Patients

Activity: Structure and Needs

A religious community should get in touch with other religious communities to collaborate and support HIV patients.  The easiest way to achieve such an initiative is to partner with an NGO or with a governmental institution specialized on this issue. Oftentimes this initiative does not necessitate funds to succeed, rather it relies on volunteers and on partnering with another religious community to do social work, which will bring to light the multiple shared values and the lack of differences.

Videos are a great way to advocate for respect and empathy, sensitize as many people as possible, and address discrimination. Videos have a stronger impact than newspaper articles because people can visualize and hear the experiences rather than read them passively. This practice requires someone to obtain the approval of individuals and film them talking openly about their hardships. The editing of the video also has to be thought through strategically to have an immediate and sustainable impact on communities.

“Religions against HIV not People” is a theatre initiative that can be carried out by religious communities to address issues related to HIV and tackle stereotypes and taboos. Once the group is formed, members have to write the play. The play has to address the stigma against HIV in religious communities, in order to remind the community of the importance of acceptance and guidance. 


Objectives: Impact and Focus

This activity focuses on non-believers and believers of different faiths alike, and brings them together under a common aim and value: solidarity for HIV patients. Through dialogue, this kind of activity implements solidarity, and shows that it is possible to interact and cooperate despite different faiths and religious backgrounds, thus it creates conditions for better coexistence. Secondly, the religious communities and interfaith groups act for the common good, and consequently help to improve the inclusion of stigmatized individuals in the society.

Videos can really reach a large audience if well promoted. This model can be used for any kind of issue as long as it gives the community in question a chance to speak out and share their voice. The videos have to focus on the victims themselves and their narratives. It is very easy for videos to be shared internationally through social media. Therefore, it can also be used to raise awareness on social issues and respect.

Through theatre, religious communities can embrace some of their most vulnerable members and give them a chance to raise awareness of one part of their identity. The play aspires to transform each religious community into a welcoming and guiding shelter for people affected by HIV. This initiative not only empowers its members but also sheds light on the caring and understanding aspects of community and fights stereotypes


Field Data: Examples and Sources (Activity – Organisation – Location)

1.) Awareness Raising for HIV – Lao Buddhist Fellowship Organization – Vientiane, Laos

In Laos, such a program is led by the Lao Buddhist Fellowship Organization in partnership with UNICEF, which finances the project. They organize a campaign to prevent HIV/AIDS and to fight the exclusion of affected people. This is done through a national media campaign. They also raise awareness among young people in schools and among families in city neighborhoods. The objective is to establish an inclusive approach to erase discrimination and stigma against affected people. These actions are also directed towards HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, and include other religious communities in the project to have a better societal impact.


2.) HIV Video Campaign – Tanzania Youth Allianxe – Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

The Tanzanian Youth Alliance has developed a video program to promote young entrepreneurs and show how Tanzania believes in its bright future, as well as videos to raise awareness on social issues such as HIV, sexual abuse, circumcision and discrimination. Videos addressing the issue of HIV are a way of sharing youth’s experiences from different religious backgrounds, their hardships and the social rejection they face, to ultimately advocate for change within society and religious circles.


3.) Religions against HIV not People – URI Lima – Lima, Peru

In Peru, discrimination and prejudice against people affected by HIV are rampant, especially since the Church of Peru is very conservative. Father Limo, representative of URI Lima, has taken a stance by actively supporting these marginalized people through the Vidarte Theatre, the Peruvian version of “Religions against HIV not People”).