Nigeria Network of Religious Leaders Living With or Affected by HIV /AIDS, NINERELA, has commenced training of religious leaders of various faith congregation in the Kaduna state as HIV/AIDS and other health issues including family planning, antenatal, among others.
The training is targeted at the Community health advocates otherwise known as CHESS -Advocates on strengthening faith communities for Community Health and Social Justice Response.
Speaking to Journalists in Kaduna during the two days training workshop Monday, the National coordinator of NINERELA, Amber Itohan Erinmwinhe, explained that it’s a network of religious leaders who work through faith congregation to reach their congregations or their community members.
She said “We say that there’re people who are living with it who are directly affected with HIV/AIDS, there’re some leaders who’s members are affected who are indirectly affected. They need to know some basic knowledge and rights on how to talk to them to leave healthy life and positively.
We have a model we’re piloting. Its a project supported by Christian Aid International, Nigeria office, on strengthening faith communities or congregation on health issues, but not only HIV/AIDS. We also work on health issues. We use religious leaders to reach their communities on health issue in faith congregation and communities. We know people respect their religious leader so much, so the religious leaders need to begins to talk about health and HIV issues in their faith congregation.
“The truth is that we’ve neglected alot community health issues in the community. The model we are piloting is using some advocates called CHESS, a community health advocacy to pilot it. We go to faith congregation to train their leaders on health issues not just HIV but on healthy issues including family planning, antenatal, sexually and health reproduction rights. When we train them we ask them to nominee health safety advocate in their faith congregation to be standing as advocate in the community or congregation.
Now there’re alot of people in faith congregation who are stigmatized who were raped and don’t know who to talk to. This CHESS Advocates we’re training are like role modern in their faith congregation.
People they have to talk to when they have issues like pregnancy for antenatal and positive people to follow up for access to treatment. Alot of people who are HIV positive are hidden of it. So theirs need for religious leaders to begin to talk about it in churchs and Mosques, and the the people will come out and have people to follow them to access treatment.
“About 3.0 million are affected with HIV in Nigeria but how many have access to treatment because of stigma. How many pregnant women attend antenatal a, and all these people are in churches or mosques that religious leaders can talk about it so they will come out” she explained.