HIV and AIDS related Stigma and Discrimination within the Faith Communities In Malawi

Published: 2006 by Norwegian Church Aid
Commissioned by:Norwegian Church Aid
Carried out by:Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association
Tags:Malawi, Africa

Summary

Background

As the HIV and AIDS pandemic continues in Malawi, three
phases could be identified. The first phase of the HIV epidemic
which creeps silently into the communities. The second phase of
the AIDS epidemic which has given rise to life threatening
Infections and lastly the Stigma and Discrimination which has
proved to be the biggest challenge. In its bid to fight against
Stigma and Discrimination MIAA decided to conduct the
research and take steps in addressing it.

Purpose/objective

The operational research aimed at unveiling HIV and
AIDS related stigma and Discrimination being
perpetuated within the faith communities in order to
contribute to the prevention of spread of HIV and
mitigate the impact of AIDS.

Methodology

The research was qualitative and six operational districts were
covered basing on their Religious, cultural and socio-economic diversity. The
districts were Mzimba, Dowa, Lilongwe, Ntcheu, Mangochi and Nsanje. Key
informant interviews were conducted for the different categories (Religious
leaders) focus group discussions (Men, Women, PLWAs, Youth) and individual
interviews. Data was collected by use of PRA school of action research. The
tools included Semi structured interviews, structured interviews and direct
observation. A total of two days were devoted for consultations and discussions
with different groups of respondents in each district. A total of 368 people were
interviewed, 7 focus groups discussions were held.

Key findings

-The majority of the congregants are not ready to admit that Stigma and
Discrimination exists
-Traces of stigma and discrimination could be noted but you needed to go
deeper to find the practices and behaviours.
-Stigma and discrimination exist in forms of language and labelling of people
living with HIV
-Stigma and Discrimination is perpetuated by lack of information and
understanding of the causes and symptoms of HIV and AIDS.
-The faith community has no6t done much to create a forum for open
discussions on HIV and AIDS related Stigma and Discrimination. Thus
perpetuating the silence
-Religious leaders are not sufficiently educated on issues of HIV and AIDS
within their congregations, even through policies and guidelines
-Theological orientations and practices are laden with judgementalism leading
to increase in Stigma and Discrimination.

Recommendations

-The faith communities are best placed to provide accurate, unbaiased
information, ways should be identified to ensure frequency and regular
provision of HIV and AIDS related information to dispel myths, fears and
anxiety on issues of Stigma and Discrimination
-Policies should be introduced and implemented to the faith communities in
relation to the National AIDS Framework and global principles on PLWAs
- There should be greater empowerment of PLWAs and involvement in
activities.
-Faith communities should collaborate and network with other stakeholders in
the fight against HIV and AIDS.
-Religious leaders have to be trained for theological transformation and
practices so as to enable them to fight HIV and AIDS and assist in the
mitigation.
-Faith communities have to protect the rights of women and children so that
they are able to decide responsibly on issues of sexuality.
-Faith communities need to produce a set of guidelines for stigma -mitigation
interventions.

Comments from the organisation

Stigma and Discrimination is one of the biggest challenges in the face of HIV and AIDS. The research has set a baseline on what issues to deal with in HIV and AIDS.
Partners like MANERELA and MIAA will be supported to spearhead Stigma and
Discrimination activities, targeting Religious leaders and other Faith Based
Organisations.

The publication is only available in digital format.

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