Framework for Dialogue: A Tool for Religious Leaders and Networks of People Living with HIV. 08/2013

From EAA

Why a Framework for Dialogue?

The active and meaningful participation of people living with HIV (PLHIV) is an undeniably central component of responses to HIV at national, regional and global levels. At the same time, the active and informed involvement of religious leaders is also a critical part of an effective and comprehensive response to HIV - as is the contribution of faith-based organisations as key providers of HIV treatment, care and support services.

However, while dialogue between PLHIV and religious leaders is not new and happens organically at the community level as well as the national level, such dialogue is often bilateral and ad hoc in nature. Furthermore, stigma and discrimination against PLHIV persists in communities at large as well as within faith communities; and PLHIV networks are increasingly aware of the necessity to meet the faith-related needs of their constituents.

Therefore, the Framework for Dialogue provides a way to increase systematic and sustained collaboration and dialogue between PLHIV and religious leaders at the national level - including religious leaders living with HIV – in order to boost the capacity of each stakeholder in responding to HIV, as well as forging or strengthening active partnerships for new and more effective approaches to treatment, prevention, care and support.

Faith and Stigma

--Evidence from the PLHIV Stigma Index in many countries shows

--Stigma and discrimination continues to be faced by PLHIV within their faith communites

--Stigma and discrimination experienced by PLHIV in their wider communities is something that PLHIV believe faith-based actors can help address

--Addressing internal stigma experienced by PLHIV is a specific area of work that faith communities and religious leaders can enable positive change and offer support

--Faith is continuous importance in the lives of people living with HIV

The Framework for Dialogue offers one way in which faith communities and PLHIV can talk and work better together to address the issue of stigma.

What is the Framework for Dialogue?

The Framework for Dialogue methodology uses evidence as a basis of all dialogue to develop joint actions between religious leaders, faith-based organizations and networks of people living with HIV.

In particular, the methodology starts where the PLHIV Stigma Index has been implemented by the national network of PLHIV, and then uses this evidence in parallel with other evidence emerging from the country context as a basis for guiding participating stakeholders from ad hoc to systematic discussions and actions, and from bilateral to comprehensive and inclusive dialogue and collaboration at decision making and national levels.

The Framework for Dialogue process in each country is overseen by a small working group of partners at the national level who oversee the implementation of the following six key steps:

  • Step 1: Initiating the dialogue
  • Step 2: Preparing for a face-to-face dialogue consultation
  • Step 3: Understanding the evidence and perceptions
  • Step 4: Holding for a face-to-face dialogue consultation
  • Step 5: Planning, executing and monitoring longer term dialogue and collaborative actions
  • Step 6: Continuing dialogue, reviewing work and learning from experiences

How the Framework was developed

Four international partners, Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA),Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Affected by HIV or AIDS (INERELA+) and UNAIDS came together in early 2011 to move the concept for the Framework for Dialogue - which emerged from the Summit of High-Level Religious Leaders held in The Netherlands in March 2010 - from an idea to a reality. Key stages of development have included:

  1. evidence gathering and analysis to inform the drafting of the Framework, including a multi-country faith-based lens analysis of PLHIV Stigma Index reports and an online survey to assess perceptions and expectations of dialogue stakeholders towards each other.
  2. testing of the Framework methodology in three national contexts (Malawi in June 2012, Myanmar in November 2012 and Ethiopia in April 2013).
  3. adaption and finalization of the full Framework for Dialogue text and methodology.
  4. development of a roll-out strategy.

Key Principles of the Framework for Dialogue

  1. Country-owned. The dialogue is driven by country partners and country priorities.
  2. Evidence-based. All actions and dialogue are based on evidence, both quantitative and qualitative.
  3. People-centred. The dialogue is not about what faith institutions are doing on HIV, but how that work or other actions of faith institutions and its representatives affect the lives of people living with HIV.
  4. ‘Do no harm’. All participants in the dialogue process agree to a ‘do no harm’ approach, especially in areas of disagreement.
  5. Equal and meaningful participation. All stakeholders enter into the dialogue as equal partners, allowing full participation and involvement in decision-making throughout the dialogue and emerging joint actions. In particular this means ensuring the meaningful, and not tokenistic, participation of PLHIV throughout the process – from development to implementation.
  6. Innovation. New partnerships are formed, and ‘out-of-the box’ thinking and solutions are encouraged.
  7. Action-oriented. The focus of the process is to move beyond dialogue to collaborative and constructive actions.
  8. Safe spaces. The methodology and facilitation of the dialogue aims to create a space where all entering into dialogue can be sure that they will not meet discrimination or judgement.

Using the Framework for Dialogue

The Framework for Dialogue is intended for national networks of people living with HIV, networks of religious leaders living with HIV, religious leaders, faith-based organisations, and an inter-governmental body/development agencies working on related issues, such as UNAIDS country offices.

If you are interested in initiating the Framework for Dialogue process in your country, please email Ruth Foley or contact one of the four organizations on the international steering group. Please note that the implementation of the PLHIV Stigma Index is a prerequisite for using the Framework for Dialogue tool.

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