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Spirituality: a double edged sword in the fight against HIV/AIDS
J. Yesiga Tumushabe1,2, D. Nuwagaba1, J. Katana Beinomugisha1, F. Aliba Ediu1
1Inter- Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU), HIV/AIDS, Kampala, Uganda, 2African Community Initiative for Social Transformation (ACIST), Board Member, Kampala, Uganda
Background: The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda has been implementing a comprehensive HIV/AIDS programme in Uganda since 2006. The programme operates through a countrywide granting mechanism to Faith Based Organizations spread across the country. The programme sought to promote the advantages and address the disadvantages of spirituality to HIV/AIDS programming. Some Religious leaders have associated HIV/AIDS with sin while others have advised people to abandon ART under the guise of spiritual healing.
Methods: Religious leaders were targeted through advocacy and trainings to incorporate stigma reduction and HIV prevention messages in their routine sermons.Religious structures (Mother's/Father's unions, youth movements across the 5 constituent religious denominations and thematic liturgical seasons) were targeted to discuss and disseminate HIV related information. In particular, pre-marital counseling sessions in Christian churches were utilized.Spiritual counseling and use of religious teachings in psychosocial support were enhanced in interventions.
Results: The Muslim leaders in the country endorsed and immediately started HIV related pre-marital counseling in their faith. All 54 Muslim districts are currently conducting these sessions. Majority of Religious leaders across the 5 major faiths are openly talking about HIV/AIDS at various levels including during sermons.Religious leaders have openly taken HIV tests and HCT is done at prayer places thereby increasing numbers accessing HCT services.
Conclusion: Spiritual and religious matters are therapeutically relevant and useful in the fight against HIV.
Spiritual values should be viewed as a potential resource in HIV/AIDS programming rather than as something to be ignored.
Diversity in religions should be celebrated. All religions promote similar values about human life and working together can achieve results in HIV/AIDS programming. Spiritual support is an essential part of holistic care.
All HIV/AIDS programmes must be sensitive to the cultural/spiritual values of the community they operate in.
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