Religious leaders have been encouraged to scale up efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS, especially considering that they are respected and trusted in their communities.
According to a religion and sexuality report which was compiled by INERELA, an international network of religious leaders living with or personally affected by HIV, training of religious leaders in East and Southern Africa has great impact in awareness raising.
This is seen as a tool to roll out the fast track agenda.
Nations have also been encouraged to scale up training to empower religious leaders through holding dialogue on sexuality issues in the fight against HIV and Aids.
This came out at the just ended six day International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (ICASA) which was held in the capital.
Running under the theme ‘HIV/AIDS in post 2015 Era, Linking Leadership, Science and Human Rights’, the conference was concluded last Friday.
Faith leaders and people leaving with HIV, among the participants, took part at the conference.
Dialogue focused on issues of stigma and discrimination and highlighted that religious leaders are opinion makers and therefore they are critical power brokers in their communities.
It was stressed that opinion making needs to be backed with accurate information.
While religious leaders are trusted within their communities, pertinent questions were raised on their knowledge of the HIV situation in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
Moreover, even though churches are participating in HIV programs, questions were also raised on the stigma surrounding people living with HIV, children living with the virus and the progress towards addressing it.
Through the discussions, it was revealed that church policies are silent on HIV and the stigmatisation.
Meanwhile; education levels, doctrines, perceptions and traditions are impacting negatively on HIV testing and access to treatment.
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