A four-day dialogue and training, in mid-August, focused on topics such as the intersections of HIV, gender, and faith; HIV treatment versus claims of exclusive faith healing; and a Framework for Dialogue to respond to HIV stigma.
The session of the Framework for Dialogue was designed to build creative synergies among faith-based groups, civil society, young people, and the health sector to analyze the evidence in HIV stigma and to develop joint action plans.
General secretary of the Christian Council of Nigeria Very Rev. Dr Evans Onyemara explained that the WCC has been at the forefront of ensuring that the issue of HIV is addressed.
“The Christian Council of Nigeria has been working very closely with the WCC in reaching out on issues of advocacy, making sure that society gets the necessary information that we ought to have,” he said.
Regional director of the International Community of Women living with HIV/AIDS-West Africa, Assumpta Reginald, said the training will help formulate strategies and pathways to address the prevailing stigma and discrimination within diverse faith groups.
“Regrettably, the places where many individuals living with HIV, especially women and adolescents, should find solace, the church or mosque, often become sources of additional distress,” she said.
A representative of UNAIDS, Oluwafisayo Fakayode, said everyone, including people living with HIV, should enjoy human rights.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says everyone has a right, everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights, regardless of status, health conditions, and other factors,” said Fakayode.
A representative of Jama’atu Nasril Islam, an umbrella group for the Nigerian Muslim community, Malam Yusuf Saidu Mohammed, reflected on making places of worship more serene and accommodating so people can solve their problems and not compound their problems.
“The teaching of the Prophet of Islam said, we should simplify things for people, give glad tidings, don’t drive people away,” he said.