Unification News for October, 2001
Helping Developing Nations Cut HIV Transmission - Interreligious And International Federation For World Peace
by Karen Judd Smith
Building on years of grassroots work by many IIFWP Affiliates, IIFWP is intensifying efforts to rally the support of civil society to focus on HIV/AIDS prevention strategies with a special focus on developing nations most affected by the pandemic.
Realizing the value of each human life, long term goals target zero transmission. But the most immediate concern is for maximum prevention of transmission of the virus with minimum cost in terms of human, monetary or natural resources.
The UNAIDS Declaration of Commitment ratified at the Special Session of the General Assembly on June 27th, 2001 "acknowledged that prevention of HIV infection must be the mainstay of the national regional and international response to the epidemic;"
Amongst many facets of this complex issue, the document:
* Recognizes that poverty, underdevelopment and illiteracy are among the principal contributing factors to the spread of HIV/AIDS and notes with grave concern that HIV/AIDS is compounding poverty and is now reversing or impeding development in many countries and should therefore be addressed in an integrated manner;
* "Emphasizes the important role of cultural, family, ethical and religious factors in the prevention of the epidemic, and in treatment, care and support, taking into account the particularities of each country as well as the importance of respecting all human rights and fundamental freedoms,"
* "Affirms the key role played by the family in prevention, care, support and treatment of persons affected and infected by HIV/AIDS, bearing in mind that in different cultural, social and political systems various forms of the family exist;"
Just prior to this UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on HIV/AIDS, IIFWP held one of its International Leadership Seminars in Nairobi, Kenya entitled "A New Vision for Leadership through Public Service: Toward Peace in the Family and Peace in the Nations." The urgency of the HIV/AIDS epidemic naturally brought to the forefront, discussions of the kind of "strong leadership that is needed at all levels of society for an effective response to the epidemic."
In relation to HIV/AIDS there were two outcomes of this seminar. First, Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak, President of IIFWP committed IIFWP to focus more intensively on helping solve HIV/AIDS crisis. Further, the seminar generated its own "Nairobi Commitment," to which most of the participants gave their clear support. This document was then circulated at the UN Special Sessions and to each country's Permanent Mission to the UN. These were the first steps of the IIFWP HIV/AIDS Initiative.
Shortly after the UNGASS on HIV/AIDS, IIFWP kept the momentum going by convening an "Expert Working Group" in New York City on July 11th. The purpose of this was to broaden the base of expertise and resources to be made available to those who need information, expert support, access to promising practices, educational materials and so forth.
The Expert Working Group brought together people from twelve internationally active organizations with expertise in limiting HIV transmission and cultivating alternatives that help youth avoid risky behavior. The consensus of this group is that scientifically and ethically sound projects and programs having a clear message of abstinence outside of marriage is the most strategic focus for sex education intended to curb HIV transmission.
To be effective, some of the organizations had developed character education components in their programs as their method for effecting the sustainable "behavioral changes" needed in effective prevention, care and treatment strategies. One organization, the International Educational Foundation was fully focused on the work of character education and so is a valuable resource in this area.
Other organizations contributing their expertise included: Free Teens, USA; World CARP; the Pure Love Alliance; the Center for Educational Media; the Women's Federation for World Peace International; HIV Avoidance Program (Nigeria); Religious Youth Service; World Peace Institute; World Association of NGOs; American Family Coalition; Family Federation for World Peace and Unification International.
The range of expertise and years of experience available through the Expert Working Group is very encouraging and covers many areas including:
* HIV Avoidance Programs for Africa;
* the integration of HIV/AIDS and vocational training programs in Africa;
* seminars on Sexuality, Character and Family Education and Love, Marriage and Sexuality;
* material development for educators;
* curricula development for schools;
* tours and activities targeting high school and college students with an emphasis on service for personal transformation;
* abstinence education, public awareness;
* peer mentoring for abstinence education;
* and more.
The urgent need to fund the clear and effective solutions already available was underscored by those who had just flown in from Africa. The emphasis is therefore, to provide simple yet compelling solutions that can be effected with least resources. To this end, and in order to support the efforts of the UN to achieve its prevention goals, especially among young men and women, the Expert Working Group will continue to meet. It will also further develop the seminal "HIV/AIDS Prevention Tool Kit" proposed by IIFWP as a mechanism to make widely available, the educational tools, training and information essential to limiting HIV transmission. Various aspects of the Tool Kit are already under development and the Kit will be available to interested persons in the upcoming months.
Other recommendations came out from the working session including a clear call for partnerships between those present so as to more effectively make a wide range of resources available to educators and other African based NGOs. The American Family Coalition confirmed its interest in making its access to America civil society a resource for the HIV/AIDS effort in Africa.
Perhaps more than any one particular outcome alone, the working session did elicit commitment to a more united and coordinated effort to renew personal commitments, to pool resources, and to make them available to assist the urgent work of transmitting clear understanding of the "principles of healthy living" thus blocking the transmission of HIV.
If you are interested in receiving information and updates about release of the Kit, please send your contact information indicating your interest in the Tool Kit to: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to: 1-914-381-1868.
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