Faith-based organizations play a key role in all areas of the HIV response and provide a significant part of HIV-related health care through their networks of hospitals, clinics and community systems, particularly in high-burden countries. For this reason, UNAIDS and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) launched a joint initiative to capitalize on the global and national leadership of faith-based organizations and to harness the power that a network of faith-based organizations could offer in some countries, including Côte d’Ivoire.
The UNAIDS-PEPFAR faith-based initiative was launched in Côte d’Ivoire on 14 October 2020 under the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene through the national AIDS control programme.
Following the national launch, several activities were initiated in the country as part of the initiative. These include the ongoing development of the Faith-Based Action Plan, under the leadership of the national AIDS control programme, which aims to ensure effective coordination and close monitoring of programmes, as well as synergy and complementarity in their implementation.
Caritas Côte d’Ivoire, which is a member of Caritas Internationalis, the organization in charge of implementing the social doctrine of the Catholic Church at the global and country levels, launched the GRAIL (Galvanizing Religious Actors for Better Identification and Linkage to Paediatric HIV) project on 9 February. This project will strengthen the involvement of faith-based organizations in accelerating the early diagnosis and treatment of children living with HIV in Côte d’Ivoire.
During the launch of the GRAIL project, a representative of the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene welcomed the commitment of the Catholic Church in the national response to HIV and recalled the place of paediatric AIDS in national priorities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic that we are facing is a very worrying health and social emergency that requires a strong response. Many of the people affected are children living with HIV,” said Bruno Yedoh Essoh, the President of Caritas Côte d’Ivoire.
“Gaps in the diagnosis and care of children living with HIV are notable and an effective national partnership with faith-based organizations in Côte d’Ivoire can help fill these gaps,” said Jean-François Somé, a UNAIDS PEPFAR/Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Implementation Adviser who represented UNAIDS at the launch.
The GRAIL project will focus on training religious leaders and faith-based health service providers on paediatric HIV and on actions to reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, including children. The first session of a training workshop for religious leaders and faith-based health service providers on paediatric AIDS started immediately after the launch of the GRAIL project. Other training sessions are planned around the country.