During a workshop on 29 June-1 July, Pastor Maxwell Kapachawo summed up the inspiration driving the group: “This training has come at the right time! We are facing the challenge of people on antiretroviral therapy defaulting on their medication due to faith healing claims.”
He was one of 19 other religious leaders from diverse faith traditions and different parts the country who attended a training designed to help them advocate for and inform others about treatment adherence for people living with HIV. The training observed COVID-19 safety protocols while it encouraged participants to become beacons of hope in their communities.
In 2019, through the UNAIDS-PEPFAR Faith Initiative, the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy programme produced a Manual on Treatment Adherence for Religious Leaders. This resource seeks to equip religious leaders to engage in advocacy in challenging exclusive claims to faith healing of HIV. The Zimbabwe Association of Church-related Hospitals, which organized the training, is one of the organisations that has been using the manual.
Pastor Susan Chihota expressed her joy at attending the workshop and accessing the training materials. “From here, we shall have the multiplier effect and promote treatment adherence,” she said.
Prof. Ezra Chitando, Southern Africa regional coordinator for the WCC-Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy programme, and Hannah Mafunda, Episcopal Area Health Coordinator for the United Methodist Church, were the facilitators.
Through expert presentations, testimonies of religious leaders living with HIV, contextual Bible studies, group work, individual reflections and other activities, religious leaders reflected on their role in promoting treatment adherence in the context of HIV and COVID-19. In their evaluations, they expressed confidence that they would proceed to mobilise other religious leaders to challenge exclusive claims to faith healing. Further, they would get more people to test for HIV, get on treatment and stay on treatment.