Impact assessment on training of religious leaders against HIV and AIDS related stigma, denial and descrimination
report of Study Findings
Despite major strides in the Kenya’s National HIV and AIDS response since the 1980s, the HIV and AIDS pandemic remains a major public health challenge. HIV and AIDS related stigma is a major obstacle that limits the effective utilization of treatment and care services and undermines HIV prevention efforts. Reducing AIDS stigma is an imperative to the success of ameliorating AIDS-related suffering. (Hartwig et al, 2006) In general, Stigma is a discrediting social label that changes the way an individual looks at him/her self and disqualifies them from full social acceptance. However, HIV has a particular, insidious stigmatization because it is associated with factors that imbue judgement and criticism. This “blaming the victim” increases the isolation and shame that the individual internalizes, which leads to fear of accessing services as well as psychosocial consequences (Wright et al, 2007). Stigma therefore contributes to the burden of illness and limits the effectiveness HIV and AIDS prevention and control. Stigma is therefore a matter of particular public health concern hence the need for effective interventions. The Breaking Barriers Project, implemented by IRCK since 2006, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), sought to tackle, as one of its objectives, the HIV and AIDS related stigma to the extent to which it contributes to adverse psychosocial and physical health of OVC and their families in Nairobi and Nyanza provinces. The specific activities included; training of 1,345 Religious Leaders in stigma reduction and advocacy skills to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS and promote positive living in their respective communities. Religious leaders are in close and regular contact with all age groups in Society and their voice is highly respected. Organised religion can exert a powerful influence on the priorities of Society and the Policies of its Leadership. Religious leaders can foster or mitigate HIV related stigma, depending on their degree of self empowerment. The key strategy conceptualized by IRCK, therefore was to build the capacity of the religious leaders to advocate against SDD by imparting skills through training. The IRCK commissioned an impact assessment to establish the significance of the SDD training of religious leaders in the reduction of HIV related stigma. The specific objectives were to; track results and impact of SDD trainings conducted so far; gather measurable indicators to capture and inform on impact of SDD trainings and to prepare a report that will inform future programming and be used by religious leaders trained so far and other external persons. Two focus group discussions were conducted, one in Kisumu and the other in Nairobi in the months of May and June, 2010 respectively. The findings of the assessment indicate that HIV related stigma is manifest in the sites of the project intervention and the training provided a strong impetus to the religious communities to intervene through activities and efforts aimed at tackling HIV related stigma and discrimination. The training empowered religious leaders to advocate against SDD. The leaders applied their enhanced knowledge and skills to educate their congregants on HIV and AIDS and to increasing play a key role in providing psychosocial support to PLWA.