HIV Related Stigma and Shame in Nigerian Faith Communities
There have been suggestions and clear indications that religion, with its potentials to influence behaviours, provides opportunity that can be leveraged on to achieve HIV prevention goal by involving religious leaders at the local level. There is also evidence suggesting that religious engagement presents important potential for improving physical and psychological health and well-being of people living with HIV as religious beliefs are seen to reduce depression, increase optimism and strength in dealing with a difficult life transition like HIV infection.
Faith leaders have the advantages of robust followership, an existing platform to reach people and access to resources beyond the immediate community. Religious leaders enjoy the respect as opinion leaders in their faith congregations and communities and have the opportunity to use the pulpit to challenge destructive prejudices that reinforce stigma, and at the same time convey important information to the population to improve uptake of HIV services as people tend to listen to what their faith leaders say. However, there have been concerns of high perceptions of stigma emanating from religious communities connected with the religious narratives that associate HIV infection to “sinful” sexual behaviour.
This report presents findings from an assessment on the nature and predictors in Abuja, Anambra and Benue States on HIV related stigma, discrimination and shame in Nigerian Faith Communities and how Faith leader play an important role in reducing the stigma.