Religious leaders from eight countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa, who are meeting in Kigali, have promised to do their best to combat HIV/AIDS which they said is still a global concern.
They made the resolve on Thursday during a consultative meeting on the SAVE approach of fighting AIDS.
SAVE means Safer practices, injections, blood and circumcision, Access to treatment and nutrition, Voluntary routine and stigma-free counseling and testing and Empowerment.
Sebaziga Gakunzi, the Director of Planning in the National AIDS Control Commission (CNLS), who opened the conference, urged the religious leaders to rally their followers behind the AIDS campaign.
He reaffirmed government’s commitment in collaborating with religious leaders in the war against the scourge.
The workshop was organised by the Rwanda Interfaith Network against HIV and AIDS (RCLS), meant to assess the progress made by religious communities in tacking HIV/AIDS and related stigma, shame, denial, discrimination through the use of SAVE approach.
“Faith communities, congregations and their leaders have undoubtedly a significant presence in the spiritual and social, political and economic lives of individuals, families, communities and nations most vulnerable to HIV and AIDS-related infection, illness and deaths in the Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond,” said The Most Rev. Dr Bernard Amos Malango, the chairman of the Malawian National Aids Commission.
“If empowered, supported and engaged with right messages and approaches they are strategically placed to make a difference in accelerating the defeat of HIV/AIDS related stigma, shame among others and promoting and multiplying the SAVE approach.”
Rev. Francis Karemera, from Rwanda Anglican Church, said that the SAVE approach was initiated by the International Network of religious leaders living with or personally affected by AIDS in the spirit of bringing about an approach that would complement the Abstinence, Be faithful and Condom use approach to AIDS fight.
“The aim of this meeting is to also raise awareness on living with HIV/AIDS in a religious context targeting mostly the religious leaders who are expected to impact on their followers,” Rev Karemera told The New Times.
He added that the target of the Rwanda Interfaith Network against HIV/AIDS in collaboration with the Global working group on faith against HIV/AIDS, is to check new AIDS infections and deaths by 2031 in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Participants were from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Togo, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Africa, Malawi and Rwanda.