Empower religious leaders to fight HIV/AIDS stigma, discrimination

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Rev Capt Jane Anikane, the Kaya COU Parish Priest in Nebbi Diocese, speaks during the meeting.

Despite existing interventions put in place to fight stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, the vice still persists and is killing many silently in Nebbi District.

This revelation came up during a stakeholders’ meeting held in Nebbi town where Rev Capt Jane Anikane, the Kaya (Church of Uganda – COU) Parish Priest in Nebbi Diocese said stigma and discrimination have lived longer than HIV/AIDS and killing more people than expected.

She observed that religious leaders had been left out in the fight against HIV/AIDS unlike the earlier days when many agencies trained them on how to manage the situation.

“I have been in the ministry for over 20 years, but I am grateful Africa Christian Health Associations Platform (ACHAP) is one organisation which has empowered religious leaders to speak to people about HIV/AIDS, it is one thing that we have been talking about partially because we did not have detailed information on HIV/AIDS yet people are also facing stigma and discrimination in the church”, she said.

The Anglican priest said the church has been missing a lot in terms of understanding issues related to HIV/AIDS especially not talking with empathy and caring about how they feel.

Rev Anikane noted that some religious leaders were dying silently without confessing as a result of fear of being stigmatised and being discriminated against yet no one is counselling them.

“Counselling is also a challenge but if the religious leaders are empowered they can do the counselling better and fight stigma and discrimination”, she added.

Mr Wilfred Omodo, one of the persons living with HIV/AIDS noted that many people have failed to disclose their status because of stigma and discrimination yet they continue to infect others especially the young girls.

He said that religious leaders have many opportunities to talk to people and encourage them to come out and disclose their status mainly because they are trusted.

“We also need a door to door approach to encourage these people to come because I know attitudinal change is gradual” he added.

Statistics

According to recent statistics released by Nebbi district health office, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS stands at 2.2 per cent while the burden among adolescents between the ages of 15-24 stands at 2.4 per cent.

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