Breaking the silence to end AIDS: addressing stigma, disparity and sex in the church
Jul 17, 2016
By Bonginkosi Moyo-Bango
The United Nations has recognized that among the most important key players in ending AIDS by 2030 are faith based organizations (FBOs).
One of the workshops at the ongoing Faith on the Fast Track pre-AIDs 2016 conference discussed at length ways of breaking the silence in order to end AIDS by 2030. Participants posited that breaking the silence includes addressing stigma and discrimination, the disparities that exist in church and community and openly talking about sex, a subject considered a taboo by most FBOs.
“Churches should stop viewing AIDS as something that is out there,” said Rev. Amin Sandewa of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.
“I’ve been a minister for 25 years and have been positive for 22 years. I disclosed my status within a context that viewed HIV as a punishment for sin and I as a reverend and thus a role model for perfect living could not disclose a positive status. When my wife and two children died, I had no choice but to disclose my status to the church and they wanted to hide me. I went for four years without a station or a salary until I joined and worked with INERELA, an organization that empowered me with information.”
Rev. Sibusiso Courtene Mosia declares openly that he is living a positive life. This however did not come easy after he disclosed his status in 2010.
“After I shared my status, I was alienated and spent a year without a salary. I believe the more we talk about our HIV statuses and challenges the freer we become even from self-stigma,” Mosia, of the Lutheran Communion of Southern Africa (LUCSA), said. He does not believe that the achievement of the 90-90-90 targets will be positive until religious leaders ‘walk the talk’ and play their part in reducing stigma and discrimination.
Gabrielle Horton, an outspoken advocate for urban communities of colour in Los Angeles stressed that public-private partnerships are the way to go.
“Public-private partnerships for health benefits are the way to go if we are to match the urgency of the information on HIV and AIDS and fast-track the implementation of interventions with the necessary resourcing.”
“The question we need to ask ourselves is: How do we find the impetus to leverage and tap into the power of FBOs for common/social good? When you tap into a faith community through sustained relationships, you are tapping into the soul of that community and helping to break the silence on various issues they may struggle with.”
Other strategies identified as possible tools for breaking the silence on AIDS-related issues included the continued use of empowered religious leaders who are willing to acknowledge and address the health and social realities on the ground. There is also a critical need to form partnerships and reach out to like-minded individuals and organizations to form networks of action.