The Potential of Organized Religion to Obstruct the Struggle against HIV/AIDS
-associations of HIV/AIDS with homosexuality, sexual promiscuity and injecting drug use has
led to a number of harmful misconceptions:
-the disease is God's punishment on a world or an individual who has gone astray
-the person has sinned and is “deserving” of the disease.
A key message that the religious bodies need to disseminate vigorously is thatAIDS is a sickness
and not a sin.
-equating HIV positive individuals with immoral behaviour has contributed to the stigma that
so often accompanies HIV/AIDS status.
-religious affiliations that blame the individual, enhance the infected person's perception
that others have adopted a stigmatizing attitude and this leads to self-stigma, guilt and
internalization – which causes the individual's health to deteriorate even rapidly
Religious bodies must adamantly reject every utterance, pronouncement or practice that carries
any connotation of stigma or discrimination.
-AIDS-silence and denial:
-HIV/AIDS issues are not dealt with sufficiently often or in sufficient depth in sermons, or
-Issues that are a concern to the community such as orphan needs, or the extent to child
violence, abuse of male power, helping adolescents on the bumpy road to sexual maturity, etc
are given way more attention than the struggles of the AIDS epidemic.
-Unlike some government sectors, such as education, the faith bodies have not invested major
resources in AIDS-in-the-workplace programmes, in developingAIDS policies, or in the
formulation of strategic plans to deal with the epidemic within the framework of their own
Religious bodies need to come out loud and clear in every possible way about HIV/AIDS,
overcoming silence or denial.
-Patriarchy and the Situation of Women:
-At an organizational level, major religious faiths have a predominantly (in some cases
exclusively) male hierarchy
-they promote the role of the women in many spheres, but have not yet made them equal
to men in their own organizational structures
-this gender inequality divides the focus of issues that need to be addressed
-difficulty in listening carefully to the experiences of women has resulted in failure to
addressing the issues of HIV/AIDS vulnerability amongst young women in their
Religious bodies must pour their enormous human resources into the task of ending the
subjugation of women, recognizing the great change this will mean for their internal structures
The Role of Religion in the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Michael J. Kelly's paper outlines both the positive and negative potentials religion can have in
the struggle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Depending on how a religious body conceptualizes the
disease, it can positively affect the epidemic or negatively affect it. Kelly points out the potential of
organized religion to constructively contribute to the reduction of HIV transmission with several
critical points. One of