Transnational Advocacy Networks: the changing role of faith-based organisations in HIV and AIDS policy and practice

Upton, Mary (2011). Transnational Advocacy Networks: the changing role of faith-based organisations in HIV and AIDS policy and practice. In: Sexuality, AIDS and Religion: Transnational Dynamics in Africa, 28-30 Sep 2011, Oxford University.


This paper forms part of a research project into the role of HIV and AIDS Transnational Advocacy Networks (TANs) in its focus on the political influence of faith-based organisations. The HIV and AIDS epidemics are distinctive in provoking responses beyond the immediate concerns of prevention, treatment and care; to encompass issues of poverty, and inequality in terms of gender and sexuality. Previous research in South Africa confirmed the stigmatising of those associated with local HIV and AIDS initiatives and the key role which churches play; either in fuelling or challenging that stigmatising process. Preliminary findings from a subsequent qualitative pilot study of nine faith-based advocacy organisations based in the UK suggest changing perspectives due to the pivotal role of those working in alliances within international networks and in response to challenges from programme partners operating in African countries. Concepts of power and networks help in understanding how deliberations between actors involved in the politics of HIV and AIDS have shaped responses to the epidemics over time. Debates within and across faith-based organisations reveal a more nuanced account of religious perspectives on HIV and AIDS than those tending to focus on the negative impact of religion on policy and practice. Theological reinterpretations illustrate shifts in debates around issues of morality and the saving of lives. Further research will focus on the ways in which policy changes, in part stimulated by African-based partners, play out in those environments where the interrelationships of power between international networks, national government and local partners both constrain and enable developments in HIV and AIDS and wider health practice and policy.

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