Local representatives from the Dominican Network of People Living with HIV and the National Council for HIV and AIDS attended. “There is a strong culture of collaboration in Dominican Republic, however the role of the faith sector needs to be integrated and strengthened,” said Gracia Ross, programme executive for WCC Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy. “There is also space for greater accountability, transparency, and coordination between the different actors in the country.”
Leaders from evangelical churches in the Dominican Republic reflected that the church has changed as well as the HIV epidemic, and that they attended the meeting in order to learn how to be part of the response.
“The Dominican Republic is responding to the realities of migrants and mobile populations from Haiti and other countries,” said Ross. “This reality brings social, economic, and historical challenges—some of which go back to colonial times—to the HIV response.”
As people continue to experience grave day-to-day challenges in Haiti, migrants continue to move into the Dominican Republic in hopes of meeting basic health needs and, for some, simply surviving.
“The Dominican Republic is one example of a middle-income country in which the inequalities that drive the HIV epidemic need to be explained with the aim of getting the commitment of every actor involved—including the Christian communities,” said Ross. Normally the realities of such countries are not discussed in global policymaking spaces for HIV, that is why this kind of consultations are very important to understand these experiences.
Dulce Almonte, director of Dominican Network of People Living with HIV, expressed that the issue of HIV is being left out of development agendas and funding, and that HIV is being considered a non-urgent issue despite the fact that the last report of UNAIDS shows an increase in HIV statistics and the abandonment of health services.
The country director of UNAIDS, Bethania Betances, explained that, in the case of a health problem such as HIV, the effect that this epidemic has on the lives of socially excluded and discriminated people and communities is exponential.
“Churches and ecumenical partners lead societies on a journey for justice and peace, hence the importance of this alliance,” said Betances.
Dr Eladio Pérez, vice minister of Collective Health, reiterated the commitment of the Ministry of Public Health to guarantee the supply of medicines and supplies for HIV and the application of standards, protocols, and guidelines on HIV that instruct care without discrimination.
The meeting, which took place in Juan Dolio, is part of a WCC a project with local partners in four countries—India, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, and Jamaica—to bring back HIV and AIDS response to the national agendas, this time with a focus on sustainability.
Through a grant from UNAIDS, the WCC Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy programme, as well as the WCC Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, is hosting meetings in which people with HIV, key affected populations, faith organizations, and churches will plan together with UNAIDS local offices, national HIV programs, and ministries of health. Consultations will be held in Indonesia from 19-21 October, and in Jamaica from 25-27 October.