Keeping the Faith in Fighting AIDS in Africa
April 8, 2003
Twenty-two representatives of leading churches and mosques in Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe are in New York for AIDS education and advocacy training.
The Balm in Gilead -- a Manhattan-based coalition of more than 12,000 US churches that aims to stop the spread of HIV throughout the African diaspora -- organized a six-week course for the Africans. CDC and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have together contributed $2 million to the training, which is part of a larger effort to build the capacity of faith communities in the five countries to address the epidemic.
The Balm in Gilead has established offices in leading churches and mosques in the five countries where it provides technical support for AIDS prevention activities. The delegation in New York will train clergy in their home countries to pass on their knowledge to their congregations. "This is the first time an African-American organization has gone to Africa to say we want to partner with you," said founder and CEO of the Balm in Gilead Pernessa Seale. "We are empowering them. HIV intervention must come from African people. Only Africans understand African traditions."
More than two dozen counselors, health educators, clergy and researchers from CDC, the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church, the Black Church HIV/AIDS Institute and other organizations are facilitating the training.
The African delegates said that stigma, lack of information, denial, poverty, poor health care, hundreds of dialects -- 300 in Nigeria alone -- belief in witchcraft and other cultural practices remain roadblocks in the battle against AIDS in Africa. One of the trainees, the Rev. Kaine D. Nwashili, national director of the Interfaith HIV/AIDS Council of Nigeria, said he sees "a bright future for the faith community in addressing the AIDS problem in Nigeria. This is the first time Christians and Muslims are coming together. What is binding us is the issue of AIDS."
Newsday (New York City)
04.06.03; Merle English
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.