22 January 2008

Sierra Leone: Christian Aid Wants Religious Leaders in HIV Campaign

Freetown — Christian Aid and Promotion of Sexual Health and HIV Education (POSHE) Wednesday called upon religious leaders to take the lead in propagating HIV messages.

Christian Aid's Valerie Tucker said faith leaders are very powerful in Sierra Leone.

"If we were to cut down on the spread of HIV epidemic, it is necessary that religious leaders take the lead," she said.

Tucker said her organization would be hosting a two-day conference with a guest appearance from Uganda on the 21 and 22 at Miatta Conference Hall.

"The guests are Reverend Canon Gideon Byamugisha and Sheik Muhamad Kibudde," she said adding that both Religious leaders are ordained ministers in the Anglican Church and Mosque.

"These religious leaders openly disclosed their HIV positive status and they have an organization named African Network of Religious Leaders Living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS (ANERELA)," she said.

Charlotte Walker said Christian Aid aims to highlight the importance of continued and non-stigmatizing response to HIV by faith leaders in the country.

She said the visiting religious leaders would talk about the impact of the virus on their lives and encourage colleagues to join the response against stigma and discrimination.

Walker noted that some faith leaders feel comfortable preaching about HIV.

"But many still equate HIV to immorality and sin which fuels stigma and discrimination," she said.

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