WCC–At a workshop held at the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly, participants expressed grave concerns over the fact that, although public health experts warned about the dangers of ignoring other epidemiological efforts at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries had to reshuffle critical medical resources, thereby preventing routine treatment of HIV.
Although UNAIDS and other organizations cautioned that no one disease should be fought at the expense of another, this happened with HIV, and experts say it may take years to return to a satisfactory situation.
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, remains one of the world’s most serious public health challenges. Approximately 84 million people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic. Today, there are approximately 38 million people currently living with HIV, and tens of millions of people have died of AIDS-related causes since the beginning of the epidemic.
Dr David Barstow acknowledges the backsliding in the fight against HIV and AIDS, and underlines the need for churches to continue combatting HIV-related stigma and reaching out to marginalized and vulnerable populations.
Barstow, who led an assembly workshop on “Experiences of Local Churches addressing HIV Related Stigma,” said that scaling up faith-based initiatives is crucial to overcoming stigma and discrimination which might prevent us from ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
Barstow is the founder of EMPACT Africa, a Christian non-profit dedicated to working with local faith leaders in southern Africa to address the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. He has worked with numerous governmental, non-governmental, and faith-based organizations.