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Press Release  
Release Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 1:29 PM
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Media Contact:
Ron Harris
Director of Communications
Howard University Advances 19th Annual International AIDS Conference with Global Interfaith Preconference

WASHINGTON (July 9, 2012) -- The District of Columbia is preparing for the thousands of attendees from across the globe next month for the first International AIDS Conference on U.S. soil in more than 17 years, and Howard University will host the gathering’s very first event.

Hundreds of representatives of different faiths will examine the current challenges and opportunities in developing an effective response to HIV during an interfaith preconference at Howard University on July 20 and July 21, a precursor to the week-long AIDS2012: International AIDS Conference. The 19th International AIDS Conference will follow from July 22 to July 27.

The interfaith preconference, “Taking Action for Health, Dignity and Justice,” will focus on the response to HIV from faith communities and will explore advocacy and on-the-ground responses to the disease during three plenary sessions and numerous workshops.

The conference is headed by co-chairs Alton B. Pollard, Ph.D., dean of the Howard University School of Divinity, and Goulda A. Downer, Ph.D., principal investigator for the National Minority AIDS Education Training Center.

“The preconference will allow the interfaith community to develop a more aggressive stance towards the disease,” Downer said.

“Addressing the global impact of HIV/AIDS requires a bold new approach,” she said, “An approach that requires every person to get involved.  Silent leadership does not work. This disease requires a commitment from the entire faith-based community.”

Pollard agreed that the faith community should play a significant role in the struggle against the disease.

“In the United States, on the African continent and throughout the African Diaspora, faith has always been a resource that people turn to in a time of crisis,” he said.  “In the global village, the faith community – Christians, Muslims and more – can effectively mobilize against HIV/AIDS in every country and region.”

A session on “Dignity” will focus on inclusive religious and community responses, which treat all people with respect and examine some of the social and legal barriers that prevent inclusion in HIV programs.

A session on “Health” will examine the challenges in scaling-up anti-retroviral treatment and highlight opportunities for faith-based organizations to help increase access to treatment through advocacy and hands-on involvement.

The final plenary session on “Justice” will explore the attitudes, policies, social inequalities and practices that continue to make people on the margins of society most vulnerable to HIV and challenge participants to address the issues. In addition, over 24 workshops will allow participants to delve into each of the many issues more deeply.

Religious leaders from around the world will participate. Confirmed speakers include:

 - The Rev. Nyambura Njoroge, World Council of Churches, Kenya
 - Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Centre, USA
 - Rosalee Velloso Ewell, World Evangelical Alliance, Brazil
 - Ruth Messinger, President, American Jewish World Service, USA
 - Canon Gideon Byamugisha, Christian Aid Goodwill Ambassador, Uganda
 - Faghmeda Miller, Positive Muslims, South Africa
 - Bishop Yvette Flunder, United Church of Christ City of Refuge, USA
 - Moono Nyambe, Global Network of People Living with HIV, Zambia
 - Swami Advaidananda, International Network of Religious Leaders Living with  
    or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA+), Réunion Island
 - Dr. Ronald Lalthanmawia, Christian Medical Association of India
 - The Rev. MacDonald Sembereka, INERELA+, Malawi           

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is the lead international sponsor of the interfaith pre-conference, working in partnership with The Balm in Gilead as the lead national sponsor. Additional co-sponsors include INERELA+, Religions for Peace, Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS, Catholic Medical Mission Board and the American Jewish World Service.          

For more information on the interfaith pre-conference and other faith-based events at AIDS 2012, visit


Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, two Truman Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, 24 Fulbright Scholars and 11 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University's Web site at

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