The executive directors of UNAIDS, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the AIDS ambassadors of the Netherlands and Sweden and people living with HIV from around the world met with more than 40 religious leaders from a variety of faiths to discuss opportunities to promote universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support in their communities while speaking out against stigma and discrimination against those living with and affected by the virus.

The two-day summit, which began March 22, brought together 40 Baha'í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh leaders. A primary topic of discussion was how stigma and discrimination are perpetuated in religious communities as well as society in general.

“The leaders gathered at this summit have the ability to inspire and empower change—within their own communities, across countries and throughout wider communities,” said the Rev. Richard Fee, chair of the board of directors of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and general secretary of the Life and Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. “In the midst of what appears to be ‘AIDS fatigue,' they have the potential to galvanize efforts against a disease that continues to spread, driven by silence, fear, violence and injustice.”

At the opening ceremony, UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé said, “As I travel the world, I see increasing evidence of social injustice. Growing economic disparities, inequality and social injustice stalk the earth. The greatest impact is felt by the poorest segments of society, on women and girls and on the marginalized. Social injustice only serves to increase the vulnerability of the vulnerable and push them farther out of reach of HIV services. I sincerely hope that this meeting will produce a call for action to make these services available and virtually eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV. Nothing would be more noble than a world with no more babies born with HIV.”

The summit was organized by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and Cordaid, with support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UNAIDS, International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV or AIDS (INERELA+), the World AIDS Campaign and the European Council of Religious Leaders (Religions for Peace).