The workshop, held in Buea, Cameroon from 25-29 May, brought together 40 religious leaders, non-governmental organizations, church health facilities and persons living with HIV.
Participants discussed HIV and gender-based violence, trauma, stigma and discrimination. Discussions also focused on how religious leaders and faith-based organizations can improve access to testing, treatment and care of persons living with HIV. Concerns around faith healing were critical in the discussions.
The Rt. Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba, moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon and president of the Cameroon Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, said: “I believe prevention is the key to ending the HIV pandemic.”
Thereafter, he called on all religious leaders in Cameroon to use their high offices in promoting the gospel of prevention to all and sundry, standing against gender-based violence and encouraging voluntary HIV testing. He said, “Together we are stronger and can defeat this monster called HIV.”
Dr Mabongo Daniel, southwest coordinator of the Regional HIV/AIDS Technical Group, said: "We still have a lot of work to do to reach the 95-95-95 target to end the AIDS epidemic; access to testing and treatment is made very difficult by the COVID-19 crisis and the current conflict. Religious leaders are key community actors in improving access to HIV testing and treatment among internally displaced persons, migrants and refugees. We are confident that this workshop will bring positive results.”
Rita Mbah, Presbyterian Church of Cameroon national coordinator for the HIV Program, said, “We are grateful to the religious leaders who have always shown interest in the HIV response. We thank God for this workshop which gave the opportunity for frank and educative discussions, hoping that it will go a long way to bring other religious leaders along for a more positive HIV response.”