Faith-Based Organisations Must Support Government HIV Strategies

The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) has said that faith-based organisations supporting HIV projects must use their expertise to help shape national policies for fighting the disease.

CAFOD stressed the need for faith-based organisations to hold governments to account in the implementation of their HIV strategies, saying that faith groups could play a crucial support role in this area.

If faith-based organisations get involved, then they could help monitor how decisions are being made, and how resources and funding are allocated within developing country, it said.

Some faith-based organisations have raised concerns over a perceived lack of support from HIV networks and funding agencies, but CAFOD's HIV corporate strategist Ann Smith said that faith-based organisations needed to be proactive in developing relationships.

"Involvement is about more than just getting access to funding. There is an influential role to play by engaging with other sectors of civil society and governments to shape national HIV strategies."

Fr Robert Vitillo, the Caritas Special Advisor on AIDS, recently called on networks such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to give greater support to faith-based organisations, revealing tensions over funding problems.

"To meet the challenges of universal access to prevention, treatment, and care posed by HIV and AIDS, we need to match up the funds that already exist with the people who are delivering the services, especially to the poor and marginalised," he said.

Fr Vitillo said he hoped donor governments and all Global Fund Board members would consider the recent proposal for a dual track system for Global Fund applications, which would allow direct application to the Global Fund by civil society actors, including faith-based organisations.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, one fifth of all organisations engaged in HIV programming are faith-based, providing up to 70 per cent of the total healthcare in many African countries.

WHO has highlighted the need for greater recognition of the work of faith-based organisations in supporting HIV and AIDS programmes in developing countries.

CAFOD said that religious "assets" were often overlooked by national and international policy makers and called for a greater understanding of both the tangible and intangible support provided by the agency and its partners.