Live the Promise: HIV and AIDS Campaign

Press Release

5 July 2012

AIDS 2012: Pre-conference events to inspire stronger faith action on HIV

Faith communities have long been on the front line of many responses to the challenges of HIV. At an interfaith pre-conference leading up to the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C., people from many of the world’s major religions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, will be exploring how their communities can further contribute to building health, dignity and justice in the context of HIV, and how they can fight stigma, rather than contribute to it.

The interfaith pre-conference, titled “Taking Action for Health, Dignity, and Justice”, will take place 20-21 July at Howard University, Washington, D.C.  Speakers will include Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (USA); Maria Ziwenge, a young woman living with HIV from Zimbabwe; Ambassador Eric Goosby, United States Global AIDS Coordinator, and many other religious leaders and representatives in the global HIV response. Around 400 participants are expected to attend.

Three plenary sessions and numerous workshops will explore ways faith communities can use both advocacy and on-the-ground responses to address the root causes of vulnerability to HIV and promote more just, equitable and inclusive societies.

Many other faith-based organizations are preparing events in advance of AIDS 2012, demonstrating the diversity and active engagement of people of faith in responding to the HIV pandemic. An interfaith prayer service at the National Cathedral will be held Saturday, 21 July, in conjunction with the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt display.  A pre-conference for Roman Catholic participants will follow the interfaith pre-conference. Side events on ending sexual violence and exploring sexuality, justice and HIV will be featured on Friday evening, 20 July.

Details are below. More information on faith-based events held before and during AIDS 2012 can also be found at:

Interfaith Pre-Conference plenary program and speakers

All sessions below held at the Cramton Auditorium, Howard University.

Friday, 20 July

Opening Session, 9-10am

Welcoming remarks:

Peter Prove, Executive Director, Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance

Pernessa Seele, CEO and Founder, The Balm in Gilead

Paul De Lay, Deputy Executive Director, UNAIDS

Keynote speakers:

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, USA

Maria Ziwenge, Young Women’s Christian Association, Zimbabwe

Plenary 1: Dignity, 10:30-12:00

[Focuses on inclusive religious and community responses which treat all people with respect and examines some of the social and legal barriers that prevent inclusion in HIV programs.]

Nick Stuart, President and CEO, Odyssey Networks (Moderator)


Swami Advayananda, International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Affected by HIV or AIDS (INERELA+), Réunion Island

Pablo Torres Aguilera, dance4life, Mexico

Bishop Yvette Flunder, United Church of Christ City of Refuge, USA

Faghmeda Miller, Positive Muslims, South Africa

Rev. MacDonald Sembereka, INERELA+, Malawi


Special Lunchtime Session: The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Faith-Based Organizations: Partners in Sustaining Community and Country Leadership on Global HIV/AIDS, 12:45-1:30 pm


Ambassador Eric Goosby, United States Global AIDS Coordinator

Dr Thomas Frieden, Director (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)


Saturday, 21 July

Plenary 2: Health, 9:00-10:30am

[Examines the challenges in scaling-up anti-retroviral treatment and highlights opportunities for faith-based organizations to help increase access to treatment, both through advocacy and practical hands-on involvement.]

Canon Gideon Byamugisha, INERELA+, Uganda (Moderator)


Esteban Burrone, Medicines Patent Pool, Argentina

Pacem Suzen Kawonga, Community of Sant’Egidio – Dream Program, Malawi

Dr Ronald Lalthanmawia, Christian Medical Association of India

Ruth Messinger, President and Executive Director, American Jewish World Service


Plenary 3 and Closing Session: Justice, 2:00 – 3:30 pm

[Explores the attitudes, policies, social inequalities and practices that continue to make people on the margins of society most vulnerable to HIV and challenges participants to address these issues.]

Moono Nyambe, Global Network of People Living with HIV, Zambia (Moderator)


Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Centre, USA

Rev. Nyambura Njoroge, Programme Executive, World Council of Churches, Kenya

Dr Rosalee Velloso Ewell, World Evangelical Alliance, Brazil

Closing address


The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is the lead international sponsor of the interfaith pre-conference, working in partnership with The Balm in Gilead as the lead national sponsor. Additional co-sponsors include INERELA+, Religions for Peace, Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS, Catholic Medical Mission Board and the American Jewish World Service.


Other faith-based events in advance of AIDS 2012


Catholic Pre-Conference on AIDS

20 July, Welcome reception, 4:30-6:30 pm, Catholic Charities USA

21 July, 2:30-6:00 pm Catholic University of America

22 July, 8:00 am – 2:00 pm

Plenaries will address Faith, Spirituality and Pastoral Care in the midst of HIV  and the  Future Sustainability of Church-Sponsored HIV Programming: Holding on to Hope in the Face of Funding Cutbacks and Flat-lining. Workshops will address a youth-led, person centred response to HIV; HIV responses developed for different cultural and geographic contexts; examples of best practices in the Americas; men’s involvement in prevention of mother and child HIV transmission, religious efforts towards zero new infections among children. See

We Will Speak Out Coalition Event

Friday, 20 July, 6:00-8:00 pm, Ballroom, Blackburn Center, Howard University

Testimonies from faith leaders and survivors of sexual violence and community organizations who wish to engage and inspire participants to seek an end to sexual violence across communities around the world through a faith-based community response. See

Sexuality, Justice and HIV, a Faith Roundtable

Friday, 20 July, 7.30-9.30 pm, Cramton Auditorium, Howard University.

Bishop Yvette Flunder will moderate a conversation focusing on the dynamics of sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity, engaging affirming faith perspectives at the intersections of justice and HIV.  The community is invited to participate in the conversation with an international panel of faith leaders. See

“From Darkness to Light”: An Interfaith Service of Hope and Commitment

at the time of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt display

Saturday 21 July, 7:00 pm, Washington National Cathedral

This interfaith service of worship calls upon us to remember those we have lost and those who continue in the struggle to live with dignity and worth in the face of HIV and AIDS. Throughout the service faith leaders and faithful persons from around the world will give witness to their faith which has supported them in their journeys while we consider who we are and whose we in the midst of this pandemic. Tickets for those not registered for the interfaith pre-conference (handling fee only) available at:


Background for Editors

International AIDS Conferences (IAC) are the peak forum for those working in the field of HIV and AIDS, including scientists and researchers, policymakers, health professionals, people living with HIV, civil society activists and faith-based organizations. They are held every two years and often attract over 20,000 participants. AIDS 2012 is the 19th IAC, and the first time in 22 years that the conference has been held in the United States, following the lifting of entry restrictions for people living with HIV. See also

Media interested in arranging interviews or attending one or more sessions of the interfaith pre-conference should contact Sara Speicher,

For more information on the interfaith pre-conference and other faith-based events at AIDS 2012 visit .

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Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance:

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is the most inclusive international advocacy network of churches and Christian organizations, with members representing Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. Our members are committed to speaking and acting together on issues of common concern, currently HIV and AIDS and Food. As an alliance of 80 churches and church-related organizations located around the world with members and constituents in the tens of millions, we are called by our faith to stand for justice, peace and a sustainable world.