…Says, “Over 3m are positive in Nigeria”
By Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
Nigeria Network of Religious Leaders Living With or Affected by HIV/AIDS (NINERELA), has commenced training of religious leaders of various faith congregation in Kaduna state on health issues including HIV/AIDS, family planning and antenatal, among others.
The training is targeted at the community health advocate, otherwise known as “CHESS-Advocates,” on strengthening faith communities for Community Health and Social Justice Response.
Speaking to journalists in Kaduna during a two-day training workshop Monday, NINERELA’s national coordinator, 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, whose 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. It’s 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 issues in faith congregation and communities. We know people respect their religious leaders so much; so, the religious leaders need to begin to talk about health and HIV issues in their faith congregation.
“The truth is that, we’ve neglected a lot 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 nominate health safety advocates in their faith congregation to be standing as advocates in the community or congregation. Now, there’re a lot of people in faith congregations, who are stigmatized, who were raped and don’t know, who to talk to.
“These CHESS Advocates we’re training are like role models 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. A lot of people, who are HIV positive, are hidden of it. So, there is need for religious leaders to begin to talk about it in Churches and Mosques, and 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? And all these people are in churches or mosques that religious leaders can talk about it so they will come out,” she explained.