Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) at the forefront in the AIDS response in the Arab region

Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) at the forefront in the AIDS response in the Arab Region
The third annual Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo) will take place from 22-26 Nov. 2010 in Geneva : “Closing Ceremony & South-South Annual Awards”, Annual Awarding Cremony. Photo Pierre Albouy.


The challenge of addressing universal access to treatment and human rights for people living with HIV, the theme of the World AIDS Day (WAD) 2010, cannot be achieved in the Arab Region without the support of respected religious leaders.

In the Arab Region, where HIV/AIDS is a growing crisis that has major spiritual, social and political dimensions, UNDP has been mobilizing religious leaders in the HIV response through the support of its Regional HIV/AIDS in the Arab States (HARPAS) to address stigma and discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV in the Arab Region.

Realizing the central role that religious leaders play in people’s lives in the Arab Region, HARPAS has mobilized religious faith leaders to reverse the spread of HIV and stop related stigma. The regional UNDP has trained directly more than 3000 religious leaders, and these religious leaders in turn have trained tens of thousands of religious leaders in their own local communities on addressing stigma through the lens of religious compassion and commitment. 

CHAHAMA is the Arabic name for the Network of Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) in Response to AIDS in the Arab Region that brings together Muslim and Christian Leaders across the Arab countries. This initiative has mobilized 250 Christian, Muslim, male and female religious leaders in the region who are now initiating their own outreach work, anti-stigma campaigns, and care and support programmes for people living with and affected by HIV.

The collaboration of CHAHAMA has earned UNDP/HARPAS this year’s third annual Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expro) Award for Leadership In recognition to its remarkable success. The award is given to the solution that best illustrates the positive impact that can be achieved by strong and effective leadership in the South.

The HARPAS/CHAHAMA work provides many powerful lessons for working with faith-based organizations to address stigma, as well as showcasing the enormous possibilities of faith-based groups working together despite their religious differences.

World AIDS Day is about raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. The World AIDS Day theme for 2010 is 'Universal Access and Human Rights'. World AIDS Day is important for reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done.

This year’s theme underlines that everyone affected by the disease should be assured non-discriminatory and non-judgmental access to adequate HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. To support this theme, the World Aids Campaign, in collaboration with UNAIDS, the Foundation for Aids Research (amFAR), and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, has launched the “Light for Rights” campaign, which aims to “illuminate the fundamental rights we all share,” and to keep the light on HIV and human rights.

Light for Rights events are happening in cities and towns all over the world and will bring thousands of people together on World AIDS Day, to honour those who have lost their lives to AIDS and to highlight the fundamental rights we all share. Over 65 Light for Rights events have been registered on a special website, and the number of events is expected to grow.