From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN), has co-opted religious leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDs in Nigeria, urging them to leverage on the massive respect and loyalty they command in the society to drive the campaign against discrimination of HIV positive patients which often reverses the gains in the fight against HIV.
The religious leaders were, however, exposed to the dangers of sitting-on-the-fence as regards fight against HIV/AIDs, thus, asking them to join forces with National Agency for the Control of AIDs (NACA) and other relevant agencies in the last lap of the fight against HIV/AIDs in Nigeria.
CCN President, Most Rev Benebo Fubara Fubara-Manuel, told journalists at a press conference to herald the end of days of consultative meeting/capacity building workshop for religious leaders on HIV treatment adherence in Nigeria, in Abuja, on Thursday, that it’s time the religious leaders play key role in the fight against HIV/AIDs in Nigeria.
He said the meeting was aimed at equipping the religious leaders with the required knowledge and capacity to interact and redefine roles in Nigeria’s national response to HIV, particularly in issues of treatment adherence in religious communities which are critical to achieving the goal of viral suppression and also the attainment of epidemic control.
The CCN President added that the meeting was also meant to reinforce the capacity of religious leaders to unleash their full potentials in the fight against HIV, discuss treatment adherence and explore the complexity of the concept of “faith healing” and all its implications.
He asked the religious leaders to note the tide of change in approaches to human issues, also urging them to rise to the challenges confronting the church especially with respect to reproductive health and HIV.
He, however, reminded them of the charge from the Minister of health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who was represented by the National Coordinator, National AIDS and STI Control Program of Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Akudo Ikpeazu, at the opening ceremony of the consultative meeting, where he highlighted the roles of faith-based organizations at achieving epidemic control and global target of ending AIDS by 2030.
The Minister charged them to take ownership of the response for effective treatment outcomes and sustainability, reiterating the role of the faith-based organizations in the last mile of the fight against the epidemic which includes favourable treatment outcomes through treatment adherence.
The CCN President, however, confirmed the commitment of the religious leaders to facilitate treatment adherence for people living with HIV, notably, young people, women, including women with disabilities.
He stressed the need to exceed the normal limitations and be willing to go beyond the normal by taking ownership of the response. “Participants promised to step down the training for buying-in toward implementation, with a workplan implementable at different level of influence.