Know your HIV statusFaith-based organisations (FBOs) had a critical role to play in fighting HIV, said Executive Director of Christian AIDS Bureau for Southern Africa (CABSA), Lyn Van Rooyen.

Van Rooyen was facilitating a session on faith-based organisations response to HIV, at the 7th SA AIDS Conference held in Durban this week.She said because of how important they were to the fight, FBOs needed to rethink their role in relation to HIV and AIDS.

Reverend Desmond Lambrechts, leader of the faith-based sector at the SA National AIDS Council (SANAC), said the proposed “90/90/90 target” by 2020 set by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) would be “impossible to achieve without the faith-based communities”.

The 90-90-90 targets aim to ensure that 90% of all people living with HIV will know their status; 90 percent of those who need it, will be on treatment and 90 percent of these will have undetectable viral loads (a measure of HIV in their system, which proves that the ARVs are working).

Organisations could help by, among others, “demystify the myths about the origins of HIV”, said Van Rooyen

“We can also help by spreading the message of hope to the hopeless and supporting clients to get tested and be referred for further assistance,” said Van Rooyen.

Faith-based organisations could also offer:

  • Holistic care
  • HIV and AIDS education
  • Psycho-social support.

“This conference’s theme – Refocus, Reflect, Renew – is actually our primary business as the faith-based community,” said Van Rooyen.

Lambrechts said the religious sector was the “entry point” in communities.

“We need to open our church facilities and spread a message that encourages people who are living with HIV to religiously take their treatment.”

He said the FBO sector played a very important role that “helps lead people from death to hope”.

“I want to thank church members who are caregivers, and church facilities which still provide care and support via soup kitchens to orphaned children.

“I want to appeal to leaders not to give up.

“We are the key, and we can’t deny the fact that when people are sick they think of reconnecting to God through us,” he added.

FBOs were asked to start documenting the work they were doing in relation to HIV and AIDS and to register early for next year’s International AIDS Conference.