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African Network of Religious Leaders (ANERELA)
History and Background

INERELA+ is an international, interfaith network of religious leaders - both lay and ordained, women and men -- living with or personally affected by HIV. It is recognized that religious leaders have a unique authority that plays a central role in providing moral and ethical guidance within their communities; indeed their public opinions can influence entire nations. INERELA+ looks to empower its members to use their positions of respect within their faith communities in a way that breaks silence, challenges stigma and provides delivery of evidenced-based prevention, care and treatment services. 
The idea for this network was first publicly discussed in 2006 as a global expansion of ANERELA+, the African network. INERELA+ was launched two years later at the 2008 International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Before the founding of ANERELA+ in 2003, very few religious leaders in Africa lived openly with HIV nor were they willing to be open about HIV+ family members. The few that did had no support structure and no united voice. In all but the most accepting of communities, religious leaders usually kept silent for fear of stigma and discrimination. ANERELA+ sought to address these issues. As ANERELA+ became increasingly well-known, partners representing regions outside of Africa began to enquire about a possible global expansion. The response to this need was the creation of INERELA+ .

Sixty percent of people living with HIV are located in sub-Saharan Africa, thus ANERELA+ will not be merged into INERELA+ but will remain a separate, but fully related organization. Based on the realities of the HIV pandemic in the rest of the world, it was decided to create regional networks based on shared elements of history, language, culture and religion. The four regions are: Americas, Asia/Pacific, Europe/Central Asia and North Africa/Middle East. India, due to its unique risk profile and large population, is treated as a sub-region with its own network structure.

In just under five years, the two networks have grown to encompass over 3,500 members across five continents. It is hoped that within five years of INERELA+’s launch, the networks will increase their worldwide membership by over 6,000. These new members will mobilize their respective faith communities to provide accurate information and other services to an estimated 2.5 million people around the world, helping to reduce HIV-related silence, shame, stigma and discrimination, and thereby reducing the number of new infections.


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