Clerics join battle against infectious diseases

Religious leaders under the Rwanda Interfaith Network against HIV/Aids, have amended their mandate and started a crusade against all infectious diseases to ensure the welfare of their followers.This was announced yesterday by Archbishop Thadee Ntihinyurwa of the Catholic Church during the fifth annual General Assembly of the organisation.
Health Minister, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho (2Left) , with religious heads; Archbishops Thaddee Ntihinyurwa and Onesphore Rwaje, during the fifth annual general assembly of Rwanda Interfaith Network against HIV/AIDS yesterday. The New Times/John Mbanda
Health Minister, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho (2Left) , with religious heads; Archbishops Thaddee Ntihinyurwa and Onesphore Rwaje, during the fifth annual general assembly of Rwanda Interfaith Network against HIV/AIDS yesterday. The New Times/John Mbanda

Religious leaders under the Rwanda Interfaith Network against HIV/Aids, have amended their mandate and started a crusade against all infectious diseases to ensure the welfare of their followers.

This was announced yesterday by Archbishop Thadee Ntihinyurwa of the Catholic Church during the fifth annual General Assembly of the organisation.

Ntihinyurwa is also the president of the interfaith network.

“The immune system of an HIV infected person is low, which may result in a patient being prone to many diseases. That is why we decided that if we are to help these patients, we need to protect them from other infectious diseases,” Ntihinyurwa said.

 “It is in this context that we need the government’s support and our plan is to have at least a representative of our network in every district”.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, urged the clerics to rally their followers behind the fight against infectious diseases.

“The interfaith network is not only fighting against HIV/AIDS, but is contributing to peace and development of the country. Before the establishment of the network in 2003, Rwanda was losing many of its young citizens at a time when the country needed them most.

This when the government entered into an agreement with the network on the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Binagwaho.

The government has entered into similar agreements with ten similar constituencies.

The interfaith network initiated anti-HIV/Aids educative methods in some parts of the country, and according to the minister, it has contributed to behavioural change, encouraging women to seek Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services and helping the infected access ARVs.

“We are proud of the fact that all religions in the country have come together to fight the disease as one. Despite having different beliefs, they have agreed on a similar method of educating the masses against HIV,” the minister added.

She reaffirmed the government's commitment in collaborating with clerics in the war against the scourge, announcing that the government would provide more assistance to the network as it increases its coverage.

The Minister pointed out some key areas of coverage that the network may focus on, including non-communicable and other infectious disease like malaria, tuberculosis and curative measures for all other diseases.

Despite the progress made by both the government and religious leaders, the two parties are yet to agree on the use of condoms and contraceptives as preventive measures.

Religious leaders insist on abstinence as the sole proper channel against HIV/AIDS, while policy makers say that in case a person fails to abstain, they should use a condom.

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