"In Uganda, I have seen faith leaders in collaboration with communities of people with HIV and the Uganda Commission AIDS control program in the Ministry of Health,” said Gracia Violeta Ross, programme executive for WCC Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy. For example, there are already some activities with young people, particularly young women, using the existing networks of hospitals and services.  The young people  also trying to introduce some of these issues in a global fund proposal now being worked out in Uganda.”

The Framework for Dialogue program brings many stakeholders together—and part of the learning was that Uganda has nationwide plans already in the works to help curb HIV stigma. They have a guideline for working with the faith sector,” said Ross. They have a plan to end stigma.”

Out of the Framework for Dialogue, a consortium arose through which people can work together, described Rev. Canon Gideon Byamugisha. The dialogue has been good—we have a unique programme,” he said. Its really going to take us to another level of response.”

The Framework for Dialogue is designed to build creative synergies among faith-based groups, civil society, young people, and the health sector.

Research says stigma has been reduced over the years in Uganda but you can still find it, particularly in families, and the legislation environment  like the HIV & AIDS Control Act and the recently approved Anti-Homosexuality Act may create more stigma,” said Ross.

Yet I didnt see confrontation between the ministry of health and the civil society organizations on the issue of reducing stigma—it seems everybody understood stigma is a problem,” said Ross. Im glad people were able to put the topic of the law aside and discuss stigma.”

Uganda has champions who are working to reduce HIV and HIV stigma—and these champions include many young people and women who are part of faith communities, added Byamugisha. The Framework for Dialogue provides a new space for them to engage.”

The Framework for Dialogue creates a safe space in which the voices of young people are heard, Ross agreed. We create space for young people to share what they are experiencing, and Uganda has vibrant organizations led by youth—they are very strong and they are advocates who are doing a lot of work, so they were leading some of the discussions. What I want to see is the Framework for Dialogue turn into an actual plan for young people.”

Eighty percent of the population of Uganda self-identifies as Christian and the rest belong to Islam and other faiths, Ross said. Such a strong faith base can help tackle HIV stigma and support HIV-positive young people to access education, health, and economic empowerment  services and to speak without being stigmatized or blamed. We are talking about youth empowerment, skills, and accompaniment activities that the Framework for Dialogue can help faith communities in Uganda to enhance and to lead from the front.”

Faith on the Fast Track HIV Campaign