‘If I could help even a single person to escape from fear then I would have done a lot.’ says Pastor Tharcisse Harerimana, reflecting on the sermons he delivers about his experiences of living with HIV.
Sermons intended to encourage greater openness and understanding about the illness, within the community.
HIV related stigma and discrimination remain some of the main challenges in responding to HIV.
They discourage people from getting tested and prevent open discussion about the virus. Christian Aid works with faith leaders in Burundi to challenge discrimination and promote care and support across communities.
BUNERELA+ (Burundi Network of Religious Leaders living with or personally affected by AIDS) was established with the support of Christian Aid in 2011.
It’s based on a model which has already been successful in other African countries including Kenya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.
Its HIV+ religious leaders, from various faiths, challenge ignorance around the illness and use their influence to encourage greater openness and understanding about the illness.
They also promote good practices such as HIV testing.
Pastor Tharcisse, a BUNERELA+ member, says ‘I soon realised that by giving testimony, I too became liberated. When I started I was terrified but little by little that left me and I was cured of fear.’
Listen now: Living with HIV: Pastor Tharcisse’s sermon to remember:
Changing people's minds
‘Changing people's minds is at the base of everything. When someone changes their mind and knows the truth, it's possible to make everything else happen. They will see the doctor because they have already changed their mind.’
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