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AIDS Activist: Faith-Based Efforts Are Largely an Untold Story

AIDS Activist: Faith-Based Efforts Are Largely an Untold Story

WASHINGTON – A leader in a faith-based charity believes that the story of religious organizations' contribution to fighting the AIDS pandemic is largely untold.

Michele Broemmelsiek, global chief of party of the AIDSRelief Consortium at Catholic Relief Services, told The Christian Post on Wednesday at a summit on the Christian community and HIV/AIDS awareness that CRS hopes to "raise the profile" of the faith community's efforts to combat AIDS.

"What brought CRS out to the summit is that we really wanted to make sure that we supported the idea of raising the profile of what the faith community has done to respond to HIV," said Broemmelsiek. "We feel like the story is still not really yet being told with the same kind of enthusiasm and support that it needs to be told."

She explained that the consortium at CRS includes several relief organizations and has put hundreds of thousands of people suffering from HIV or AIDS on treatment.

"Even more important [is] we've been able to put them on treatment and keep them on treatment. So the untold story sometimes is how many patients get lost. They stop their treatments, they die," said Broemmelsiek.

"Of our patients we have ever enrolled … 80 percent are still in treatment ... So I really believe that this commitment in the field of faith organizations working together is something that shows results and that it's an untold story."

The gathering, titled "The Summit on the Role of the Christian Faith Community in Global Health and HIV/AIDS," was held at Georgetown University.

In addition to CRS, the other sponsoring organizations included World Vision, Food for the Hungry, and Saddleback Church, whose senior pastor Rick Warren was in attendance and part of one of two panels that met.

"One drop of rain doesn't make a difference at all, but a million drops of rain turns a desert into a garden," said Warren in his presentation. "I can't do a lot, you can't do a lot, but together, we can do a lot."

The summit also had several prominent political speakers including: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). A statement sent to the Summit by Congressmen Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) was read by Ambassador and former Congressman Mark Green. Video messages by former President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney were played as well.

"For faith-based organizations in the countries where the crisis is still so great, we really need them to continue to advocate with their governments to not forget about the fact that we have this opportunity," said Broemmelsiek.

"We must continue to enroll new patients on treatment. We must continue to get more funds out to local organizations so that they can continue to expand all the care and treatment they're providing."

The summit was held in conjunction with the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference began on Sunday and has the theme of "Turning the Tide Together."

"By acting decisively on recent scientific advances that have changed the landscape of the epidemic and by pursuing the momentum for an HIV vaccine and cure, we can turn the tide together on HIV and begin the march toward the end of AIDS," said Shawn Jain, U.S. communications and media relations coordinator for the conference, in an earlier interview with CP.


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