• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Why we’re involving religious leaders in HIV/AIDS campaign – Akwa Ibom govt

Why we’re involving religious leaders in HIV/AIDS campaign – Akwa Ibom govt

The Akwa Ibom State Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS (AKSACA) has explained why it is seeking the involvement of religious leaders and faith-based organisations in its awareness campaign to check the spread of the disease and check new infections.

The agency,.which recently organised a sensitization campaign for the religious leaders in the three Senatorial Districts of the State, in Eket, Uyo and Ikot Ekpene Local Government Areas, said the decision was borne out of the respect the religious leaders command in their various communities and organisations.

In an interview during the meeting in Ikot Ekpene, Enobong Akpan, project manager and medical doctor, said that the religious leaders play an important role in the HIV/AIDS response because of their strong links with the communities and their broad networks with hospitals,clinics and other health facilities.

Reiterating that the vision of the campaign is to achieve zero infection by 2030, he listed common practices that drive the spread of the disease as frequent patronage of untrained Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), high sexual activity by young people and the economic hardship that the country is going through.

Represented by Ubong Okure, he said, there had been many misconceptions about the disease that are still prevalent in the communities, adding that most of the misinformation could be addressed by the religious leaders.

“We thought it was necessary to call them so they can be presented with the real facts about HIV and how it is spread.

“We realise their role and the respect they command, we believe that if they are the one spreading the message, they are our ambassadors now going out the truth about the disease. They will also encourage their members to go for counselling and testing and not just saying it is a spiritual matter”, he said.

Also speaking, a Mekan Abah, a medical doctor and representatives of Excellence Community Education Welfare Scheme (ECEWS), advised religious leaders to pass the right information to their congregation which she said, should include “everybody should be tested for HIV, everybody should know his or her status, and eventually is any of their members is positive, they should refer them to hospitals, to have their health needs attended to so that they could start antiretroviral medication.”

According to her, the members who are already on their medications, “they should help adhere to the medications and they should dispel some cultural and spiritual beliefs which some of them think that HIV is a spiritual problem and that it is not a death sentence. They should also pass the message against discrimination and stigmatisation to their members so that these members feel free to be part of the society.”

“So if our spiritual leaders have the right information, it would better help us to prevent new infections among the population and it will help us to end mother to child transmission by 2030.”

In his remarks, Monday Akpan, the state coordinator of Nigeria Network of Religious Leaders Living with HIV/AIDS (NINERELA) listed the consequences of stigma and discrimination saying it included social isolation, low self esteem and mental health issues and advised that members should be encouraged to undergo screening and testing for the disease.

He said HIV is not a spiritual problem but a health condition.