Monday, January 19, 2009

ICASA Trip – Religious Leaders and HIV/AIDS

ADRA Malawi assisted by one of its donors DANIDA in Denmark was privileged to attend 2008’s ICASA conference which was held in Dakar, Senegal, from 3rd to 7th December, 2008. Inger Olesen, from ADRA Denmark, Michaels Usi from ADRA Malawi and Emma Jakobo from ADRA Malawi as well were some of the delegates to this significant conference.
The significance of ICASA (International Conference on AIDS and STI in Africa) comes about due to its capability of enabling all the organizations working in the area of HIV/AIDS to come to one place and share best practices, challenges and research results for future programming of HIV/AIDS projects/programmes. This conference was organized by the Society on AIDS in Africa (SAA), Republic of Senegal and Ministry of Health and Prevention of Senegal with other eleven organizations as co-organisers. A lot other international organizations sponsored the conference. This was the 15th ICASA and for Senegal it was the second time hosting such an essential conference.

The theme of the conference was “Africa’s response: Face the facts” and it covered these three major areas:

  1. Policy and Economics: analysis of the impact of the response to HIV in Africa and reflection on strategies for sustainable funding of the response and leadership
  2. Programs: strategies in prevention and treatment
  3. Basic sciencies: biology, immunology, vaccine research and resistance to ARVs

As the theme stipulates, the forum is organized for Africans to assist to find solution to the AIDS pandemic. It is about everybody men, women, youths scientists and even leaders to come together and find solutions to a common problem which is AIDS. Africans have to face the facts, accept and face the realities of HIV/AIDS truthfully and act determinedly for the future.

During the five days a lot was presented and ADRA Malawi attended several sessions.
One session attended which was of interest among the best practices sessions, was on a South African HIV/AIDS project with the clergy. The challenge is on the prevention of HIV (ABC model) which tends to be compromised when it comes to C which is consistent and correct condom use. There was a contentious discussion basing on people’s experience as to how the clergy’s attitude towards condoms is. ADRA indicated that the experience is that condom issues among the most educated clergy are understood better than among the semi literate or illiterate ones. They tend to condemn the use completely and look at it as a means of promoting promiscuity. At the end of it, it was learnt that strengthening HIV/AIDS programmes with this group is momentous. If they are dealt with very well and grasp the concept then the issues of prevention, stigma and discrimination, care and support of the vulnerable groups will be handled easier. Faith based organizations at grass root level are common and if empowered can play a very vital role in the response.

ADRA Malawi works with the clergy and reports from interventions carried out in various communities indicate that they are active teaching about HIV/AIDS messages in different gatherings like in community development meetings, youth gatherings and even at funeral ceremonies. However with condom use, most of the clergy at grassroot level recognize the use of a condom for family planning purposes for married couples and sex workers only. Any one outside these groups is considered a sinner. Such being the case this discussion was of essence to have a better understanding on what our friends are doing in similar projects and how different we can collaborate with them for better out put.

Author: Emma Jakobo

2 comments:

A Khudori Soleh said...

nice info. God bless us

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