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UCAN Stop AIDS eNews-September 2008

We want to hear from you!

UCAN* invites anyone connected to the United Church of Christ (UCC) to share their views about HIV prevention, particularly for the UCC in various community settings.  It is very important for us to learn from the experiences and perspectives around the church. 

An online questionnaire is now available for you to share your responses to the following open-ended questions.  What do you think makes HIV prevention an urgent concern for the United Church of Christ?

  1. What biblical stories or scripture passages under gird your understanding or theology of HIV prevention?
  2. What are the faith values that inform why you think the UCC and other people of faith should be concerned and involved?
  3. From your perspective, what has happened in the history of the UCC that supports the UCC's involvement--our traditions, events in our history, previous General Synod actions?
  4. Based on your understanding and experience, what do you think are the essential components or strategies of HIV prevention for UCAN to include in its program and encourage and why?
  5. What public policy on HIV prevention would you like to see the General Synod encourage?
  6. What could we do to better share accountability for HIV prevention across the life of the church, not only in the national setting, but in all settings of the church?

Please take time to reflect on these questions and then click the link below to go to the online the questionnaire.  Questionnaire responses will be strictly confidential and data from this research will be reported only in the aggregate. Your information will be coded and will remain confidential.

If you have questions at any time about the survey or the procedures, you may contact Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer at 216-736-3217 or by email at the schuenem@ucc.org.

 Click here to go to the questionnaire.


Reflections on the 2008 Internal AIDS Conference

When the 2008 International AIDS Conference came to a close in Mexico City, there were no breakthrough announcements about a cure or a vaccine.  However, there were bits of good news about treatment and increases in access to treatment which have extended the length and increased the quality of life for millions of people living with HIV on anti-retroviral treatment around the world.  At the same time, the conference consistently brought home the message that even with the enormous response already made, an even greater response is needed if we are to keep pace with the epidemic, much less to gain ground against it.

Other consistent themes from the conference included:

  • Faith communities can and need to play a more significant role in the response to HIV and AIDS, using their networks of relationships to fight stigma and discrimination and for prevention and care.
  • The importance of collaboration (thus the theme of the conference, Universal Action Now!).
  • Combinations of approaches are the most effective in prevention efforts, including the critical need to invest more in evidence based prevention, such as: 
    • Comprehensive sexuality education
    • Condom availability and consistent proper use
    • Reducing stigma and discrimination
    • Engaging efforts for harm reduction
    • HIV Testing, HIV testing and more HIV testing (only 40% of people in the U.S. know their HIV status [CDC]).
  • Studies from Africa show male circumcision may reduce HIV infection among men by as much as 60%.  More studies are needed and it is uncertain what that means for countries where male circumcision is already common, such as the U.S. (80%).  However, circumcision is no excuse to have unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal or oral).

We were reminded of the global data, that there are an estimated 33 million people living with HIV worldwide (UNAIDS 2008) and for every 2 people who go on treatment there are 5 new infections.  In other words we are losing badly the battle for universal access to treatment. 

We received a new report from the U.S. CDC indicating that for the past several years the annual number of new infections has been underreported by 40%.  The new data says there are 56,300 new HIV infections in the U.S. per year, more than 1 million people living with HIV (about 0.5% of the total U.S. population) and 250,000 of them are not aware they are HIV positive. 

In the U.S., the prevalence of HIV in the African American/Black community is a disproportionate 2%, 4 times the national prevalence, and the total number of infections exceeds those in 7 of the 15 countries receiving funds from PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief).  Infections among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in all racial groups is the only category of infections that has continued to rise in the U.S. since the early 90's. There are disproportionate infection rates among young, African American/Black and Latino MSM in comparison with other age and racial/ethnic groups.  Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) along with other leaders and activists are calling for a domestic PEPFAR and a national HIV and AIDS strategy for implementing a more effective response to the HIV epidemic in the U.S.

Although there are still daunting challenges in the struggle stop HIV and AIDS and care for all those affected and living with HIV, there was considerable optimism throughout the conference.  Even without a cure or a vaccine, the light at the end of the tunnel are the opportunities we all have to scale up our efforts

  • to provide universal access to treatment,
  • invest in the prevention of new infections and
  • address the stigma, discrimination and other drivers of this epidemic. 

All of this is doable and within reach, but to achieve it, we must make up the gaps between what we are doing and what we are capable of doing.

In the coming weeks, UCAN (the UCC HIV and AIDS Network) will be assessing our strategies and communicating about how to get involved.  We are already available to help leaders, churches and other organizations assess their HIV and AIDS competencies, develop a plan of action and determine next steps.  Stay connected to our web site, www.ucc.org/ucan and watch for the next issues of UCAN News and UCAN Stop AIDS eNews to learn more about what UCAN is doing, including what is being planned for General Synod 27 in Grand Rapids, MI, June 2009.  We are always eager to hear about what you are doing so please send your news, including personal stories, programs, activities, sermons, liturgies, questions and comments to ucan@ucc.org.

Click here to read more reflections from the 2008 Ecumenical Pre-Conference and International AIDS Conference


2008 UN High Level Meeting on AIDS

U.N. Secretary-General HIV and AIDS midway report

A key component of the 2008 UN high-level meeting on AIDS, "midway" report from the Secretary-General of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS)regarding progress toward implementing the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. The high-level meeting was held June 10-11 at United Nations headquarters in New York.

The findings are based primarily on reports of 147 Member States* that represent the most comprehensive body of evidence ever assembled regarding response to HIV in low-, middle- and high-income countries. The report two years before the target date the world set to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support; and at the midway mark toward the target date of 2015 for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Response to HIV is improving in many regions. However, in 2007, the number of new HIV infections was 2.5 times higher than the increase in the number of people receiving anti-retrovirals.

*The report does not include HIV and AIDS in the United States because the U.S. did not submit a report.

Key findings

  • As of December 2007, an estimated 33.2 million people worldwide were living with HIV, with an estimated 2.5 million new infections and about 2.1 million died of AIDS.
  • In 2007, national surveys found in the 15-24 age group, 40 percent of males and 36 percent of females had accurate knowledge of HIV – well below the 95 percent goal unanimously endorsed in the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.
  • The percentage of HIV-infected pregnant women receiving anti-retrovirals to prevent mother-to-child transmission increased from 14 percent in 2005 to 34 percent in 2007.
  • Globally, most injecting drug users and men who have sex with men lack meaningful access to HIV-prevention services.
  • More than 80 percent of countries, including 85 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, have policies to ensure equal access for women to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Women in sub-Saharan Africa have equal or greater access to anti-retrovirals, but the reverse is true for women in concentrated epidemics.
  • Antiretroviral coverage rose by 42 percent in 2007, reaching 3 million people in low-middle-income countries, about 30 percent of those in need.
  • In 2007, despite affordable treatments for tuberculosis (TB), only 31 percent of those living with HIV and TB co-infection received both antiretroviral and anti-TB drugs.
  • While 74 percent of countries have policies to ensure equal access to HIV-related services for vulnerable groups, 57 percent of these have policies impeding access to HIV services.
  • Funding for HIV-related activities in low- and middle-income countries reached $10 billion in 2007 — a 12 percent increase over 2006 and a tenfold increase in less than a decade. In low- and lower-middle-income countries, per capita domestic spending on HIV more than doubled between 2005 and 2007.

Key recommendations

  • Although the great majority of countries have national policies on HIV, budget allocation is often lacking. Senior political leaders must work with donors, technical agencies and civil society to vigorously lead and ensure HIV policy implementation.
  • All governments, donors, researchers, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders engaged in the response to HIV must begin planning for the long term
  • In countries where HIV prevalence exceeds 15 percent, only a national mobilization utilizing every available prevention tool will meet challenges posed by the spread of HIV.
  • Scaling up focused HIV-prevention strategies for populations most at risk represents an urgent public health imperative, requiring political courage and leadership
  • Countries should undertake initiatives to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of TB in HIV-positive individuals and to diagnose HIV infection in those with TB. Also crucial: a massive political and social mobilization to address gender inequities, sexual norms and their roles in increasing HIV risk and vulnerability.


New collaboration to benefit people with HIV/AIDS in NYC

An outstanding example of how faith and secular organziations are working hand in hand to move the the mission of HIV and AIDS prevention and care, UCAN has created a formal partnership with the AIDS Service Center New York City (ASCNYC; www.ascnyc.org) Spiritual Outreach Services (SOS). Other significant sources of support include Conscious Contact of New York (www.ccofny.org), the Riverside Church Global HIV/AIDS Ministry (www.theriversidechurchny.org/getinvolved/?HIV). 

This new partnership sponsored a kickoff luncheon hosted by the Riverside Church Global HIV/AIDS Ministry on June 14 for an intergenerational/ecumenical program to serve shut-ins with HIV/AIDS. Voluneers for the stipend-based program will serve in the New York City areas of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens.  The luncheon program included an overview of the City-Wide Intergenerational Volunteer Program will be given, "HIV & AIDS 101 & Knowing Your HIV Status & Testing Update"; "Hepatitis C 101 -- Co-infection Status and Support Update"; "Knowing What Hospice Care Is"; "Volunteer Visiting Sick and Shut-In Program"; applying for the program and next steps. 

UCAN Stop AIDS eNews is the occasional email newsletter published by 
UCAN, Inc., the United Church of Christ HIV & AIDS Network, a 501c3 charitable corporation. 
ucan@ucc.org; Phone: 216-736-3218; Fax: 216-736-3203
700 Prospect Avenue E., 7th Floor, Cleveland, OH  44115