Lutheran Church Leaders and AIDS Coordinators Receive Training
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa/GENEVA, 21 December 2011 (LWI) – Lutheran leaders in Africa attending the LWF/LUCSA consultation on gender and the HIV epidemic were trained with a new HIV prevention kit. The model is designed to help end the silence on sex and responsibility in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
The SAVE model, which stresses safer practices, access to treatment, voluntary counseling and testing and empowerment, will help boost the LWF AIDS campaign.
“There is a deafening silence by the faith-based community around issues related to sex, so we have to empower our leaders on how to tackle the problem,” said Vanessa Michael, monitoring and evaluation officer with the International Network of Religious Leaders Living With or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA).
“We thought we had to break the taboo involved with sexuality at the faith-based level and this is a tool kit that religious leaders have felt comfortable to work with,” said Michael, one of the editors of the tool kit.
She added that the kit directly addresses issues of prevention by focusing on the impact of stigma, shame, denial, discrimination, inaction and misaction that have often been ignored.
The SAVE model has been around since 2007 but has only been produced as a manual for use in churches and communities in Africa this year. Michael said it has been accepted by the World Health Organization.
Agents of Change
Religious leaders are powerful agents of change and the guide provides space for them to explore the difficult subjects of sexual and cultural practices that can lead to new infections, she noted.
“The methodology is old but the tool kit is a first for many people in Africa. We are already supporting its adoption in the region—Kenya, Malawi, and Mozambique, among other countries,” said Michael.
This tool kit is about both sex and responsibility, added Ivan Lloyd, INERELA national coordinator in South Africa.
He said that after the ABC campaign, which focused on abstention, being faithful and consistent and correct use of condoms, there is now a sense of finally getting a tool kit that covers a broad range of issues.
“Human vulnerability is treated in a direct but compassionate manner,” he said.
“It is certainly something that I will recommend some people to use because it addresses a broad range of subjects in a less confrontational manner,” said Rev. Gerson Neliwa, who heads diaconal and social services programs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia.
Nokhanyo Mswewu from Matatiele, a Moravian Church in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, said the tool kit was useful because it explains simply how HIV transmission occurs.
“There are deep rooted cultural beliefs in some communities and they still think AIDS is some form of witchcraft, but our coordinators can now translate this into local languages and give people hand outs,” said Mswewu.
“Where people cannot translate names of anti-retrovirals, they will coin local phrases to make it understandable. This will certainly help,” she noted.
The 50 church leaders and AIDS activists attending from across Africa were urged to share the tool kit widely in their constituencies.
“The LWF is promoting the SAVE method of HIV prevention and encourages its member churches to use it in their response to the epidemic,” added Rev. Dr Veikko Munyika, coordinator of HIV and AIDS work at the LWF. (572 words)
(By LWI correspondent Munyaradzi Makoni)