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Tackling HIV & AIDs with faith based communities

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The AIDS pandemic in Africa is devastating the continent. The institution of marriage does not appear to be protecting women - in some countries rates of infection among married women are higher than those among unmarried, sexually active women. Recognising that unequal gender relations are a driving force behind the AIDS pandemic, this article explores the position of local evangelical churches in Africa with respect to gender relations and sex, and the implications for HIV and AIDS. Based on desk and field research carried out by Micah Network member Tearfund UK, the findings indicate that these churches were largely silent on the issue of gender and sex, or were reinforcing traditional values which contribute to HIV infection. In a number of countries, the church seems to have failed to provide leadership to young people, especially young women, facing huge pressure to be sexually active. Strategies for responding are outlined.

This article first appeared in Gender & Development Volume 14, No 3 "Faith Communities" published by Routledge/Taylor and Francis for Oxfam. See www.informaworld.com.