One in five organizations engaged in providing HIV & AIDS services is faith-based, and FBOS tend to excel in mitigating the impact of HIV & AIDS by providing care, treatment and support to people infected with HIV, especially in areas with a poor public health infrastructure.
Where they tend to fall short is effectively working to change risky behaviors because many FBOS focus exclusively on abstinence and faithfulness as prevention strategies and fail to deliver comprehensive prevention messages that include the use of condoms to prevent HIV.
Among FBOS, Catholic providers once again have the most serious shortfalls in the provision of HIV & AIDS prevention services because the Catholic hierarchy completely forbids the use of condoms.
When the US Congress created the historic PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for aids Relief) in 2003 to provide $15 billion for international aid to combat HIV & AIDS in select countries, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops successfully lobbied for the insertion of a "conscience clause" that exempted FBOS from endorsing or using prevention methods with which they had a religious or moral objection.
When the PEPFAR program was reauthorized in 2008, lobbying by the Catholic bishops and Catholic Relief Services resulted in a delinking of family planning services and HIV & AIDS prevention and an expanded conscience clause that allowed FBOS to refuse to refer patients to organizations that distribute condoms, a contradiction of long-standing US policy that FBOS that refused to provide certain contraceptive services needed to refer patients to providers that did.
To suggest, as some have, that funding can go to other FBOS that can offset the effect on women's health of the Catholic-affiliated healthcare systems--especially in the developing world--is disingenuous at best, and, at worst, dishonest.
Much like DSWS attempts to deal with FBOS, the Ugandan government may have seen faith-based organizations as valuable new allies, but HIV-prevention efforts suffered from these partners' very specific idea of what "reproductive health services" means.
Sadly, it's not just governments or development agencies that find themselves in the business of placating conservative FBOS at the expense of public health.
The result of these friendly relations, Jacobson says, was that partnering more indiscriminately with FBOS became a hallmark of the global AIDS movement.
An agency-wide UNAIDS survey revealed that the clear majority of its 112 worldwide offices already had strong relationships with faith-based groups, and with good reason, as FBOS are often the longest-serving and most trusted organizations on the ground in developing nations.
The outreach to those doing the marginalizing was intended, Karam says, to bring multiple groups together: existing faith-based partners that either publicly or privately supported the UN's human-rights agenda as well as FBOS opposed to that agenda, so that UNAIDS'S friends in religious communities could be mobilized to take on opponents.
Part of the identification process Karam described in finding out which FBOS are "friends" included separating religious rhetoric from FBOS' actions on the ground.