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Assembly 2005
Ecumenism in Action

In the context of the Caribbean region, where faith-based organisations exert considerable influence on public opinion, the CCC is well-positioned to carry out work in mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS and scaling up the response of faith-based organisations to HIV/AIDS. In fact, the 2001 World Bank Country Study on HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean states that

"Religious institutions represent a major source in the effort to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean . Following the example of the Caribbean Conference of Churches, the creation of fora and formal alliances among the various religious organisations involved in the effort to combat AIDS at the country level ought to be given priority consideration. "

The CCC began its exploration of a response to the issue of HIV/AIDS in 1998 and today is a well-respected member of the Caribbean Regional Task Force on HIV/AIDS, now known as the Pan-Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP). It has been working with CARICOM and other regional partners towards the full implementation of the Regional Strategic Framework, HIV/AIDS, 2002-2006.

Our current HIV/AIDS programme reflects a comprehensive response to a complex socio-economic development issue. The programme now consists of the following components:

•  Counselling Training;

•  Education and training (this includes the following two areas of focus):

•  Behaviour change and communication programmes geared towards youth, clergy and the integration of HIV/AIDS in denominational educational facility curriculum including schools, theological colleges, Sunday school etc.;

•  Advocacy and awareness building (including sensitization for clergy and lay persons, partnering the regional media);

•  Seed money to support member church initiatives;

•  Assisting member Churches in the provision of care facilities and support for PWAs and their families.

•  Provision of technical and other expertise in support of member church initiatives.

The basis of these six areas of action is the reflection of a human response to a human issue taking into consideration our "comparative advantage" as faith based organizations dealing with this issue.

Major results expected from the projects included in this component include increased number and improved behaviour change and communication programmes as a risk prevention strategy mounted by faith based organizations; an extensive regional network of ordained and lay activists functioning across the Caribbean; training and information manuals for the management of church projects; and behaviour change and communication programmes dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Accompanying this will be the publication of contact and other necessary information. The programme also focuses on enhancing the regional sharing of resources among churches in the region. Exchanges of information, personnel and other resources is promoted through this programme.

Consistent with its policy of accompaniment, the CCC held a conference titled "Human Sexuality and HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean - A Theological Approach," in November of 2001 in the Dominican Republic . Some 120 participants including Church leaders and Church workers attended. The activity was part of the advocacy and awareness building component of the CCC's overall HIV/AIDS response programme. It was jointly sponsored by the CCC, Christian Aid and the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The objectives of the conference were:

•  To contribute to and deepen the theological understanding of and ethical debate on human sexuality in the Caribbean .

•  To facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of the issue of human sexuality and to explore its relationship to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region.

•  To make available to CCC member churches the most up to date information on HIV/AIDS in the region.

•  To assist member churches in developing policies which would inform pastoral programmes as a compassionate response to persons living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

The conference provided an opportunity for leaders of our member churches and lay activists concerned to come together to reflect, share on their work and plan action. One of the major results of this conference is the hosting of a workshop for those already involved in HIV/AIDS work in the Churches. This workshop will focus on sharpening their project management and other skills, among other things.

In April of 2002 the CCC cemented its relationship with UNAIDS which funded one aspect of the work of the organisation's regional HIV/AIDS programme. The project was called "Youth HIV/AIDS Prevention and Behaviour Change Programme" and focused on four territories Trinidad and Tobago , Bahamas , Haiti and the Dominican Republic .

The project aimed to train peer educators to assist young people in making healthy sexual behavioural choices in the context of a supportive church/religious environment. In addition, sessions specially designed for clergy were held. The aim of these sessions were to build awareness among our clergy on HIV/AIDS as it relates to young people. This was with a view to their supporting the peer educators and building awareness among their own peers.

The main objectives of the programme were to strengthen Caribbean churches' capacity in HIV/AIDS prevention and behavioural change interventions with the 15-24 year old population in order to promote their self-esteem and facilitate healthy life choices.

The beneficiaries were young people within the 15 to 24 age group, who attended denominational schools or were involved in young adult church groups. This age group was targeted because it is an age group that is at high risk of contracting HIV and one that makes up more than half the population of the Caribbean region. Clergy in the four territories also benefitted.

Achievements to date include:

•  A trained and operational group of 120 Peer Educators functioning at the regional level.

•  Increased capacity of young people within religious communities to make informed choices on their sexuality.

•  The strengthening of existing national programmes in each target countries.

•  In the long-run we expected positive behaviour change among targeted young people.

The CCC also recently entered into a collaborative relationship with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for the implementation of a comprehensive three-year Regional HIV/AIDS project entitled "Building a Faith-based Response to HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean ".

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The overall goal of the project, which will be implemented over a period of approximately three years, is to mobilize and enhance the response of Faith-based organizations (FBOs) in the Caribbean to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The purpose is to strengthen faith-based HIV/AIDS projects and programs particularly in the areas of care and support initiatives, education and awareness building at the level of congregations and communities in 14 CARICOM territories.

The project aims to achieve results such as increased advocacy from FBOs on HIV/AIDS issues and improved and increased availability of home-based care and support programs for People Living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

It will make use of existing FBO structures and institutions in the region and will strengthen the response of these organzations to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This will be done through the establishment of guidelines as well as the provision of training and capacity building in various areas. It will also ensure the effective development of linkages between existing faith based and HIV/AIDS networks at local, regional and international levels.

The CCC is also a member of the Project Advisory Group of Strengthening the Institutional Response to HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean (SIRHAC), which is an EU funded project executed by CARICOM.

The CCC is also well aware that one issue cannot be dealt with in isolation, and so approaches its programmatic work in an integrated approach. The HIV/AIDS programme is therefore one of several complementary regional programmatic initiatives that focus on holistic development and which continue to impact on crucial areas of the social life of the region.

The HIV/AIDS itself belongs to a cluster of Human Development Programmes designated Priority Regional Initiatives (PRIs). The other programmes in this cluster include Drug Demand Reduction, Family Life Development, Food Security, HIV/AIDS Response, Uprooted People, and Violence Mitigation. Together with this is a cluster of Sustainable Socio-Economic Development Programmes .

This comprises initiatives on Poverty Reduction, Project Development Fund and Disaster Management with a focus on Disaster Mitigation, Preparedness and Response. The three other programme areas of the CCC are The Caribbean Ecumenical Institute which focuses on Theological Issues , Development, Praxis Issues and Culture; an Advocacy and Communications Programme and an International Relations Programme.

CCC's partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS include UNAIDS, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Christian Aid, Church World Service and Witness (CWSW), Evangelisches Missionswerk en Deutchland (EMW), Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), World Council of Churches (WCC), United Church of Canada (UCC), United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG).

Future Outlook

We are hoping to continue to build on this programme with follow-up youth activities. These would focus on issues of:

•  advocacy and awareness building;

•  education and training and;

•  behaviour change and communication.

All activities would build on and strengthen the already existing network of youth peer counselors.
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