The Church is yet to fully accept people living with HIV and AIDS decades after the emergence of the virus, a senior clergyman has bemoaned.
In Zimbabwe at least 1.3 million people are estimated to be living with HIV. Although access to HIV treatment is still a challenge in the country’s AIDS sector stigma and discriminations is also affecting those living with HIV and AIDS.
According to international law, stigma and discrimination in HIV and AIDS refer to the prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse and maltreatment of people living with the pandemic.
These negative attitudes result in those living with the disease being shunned by family, peers and the wider community.
Health practitioners also say stigma and discrimination lead to poor treatment in healthcare and education settings.
If stigma and discrimination continue stakeholders in the HIV sector say Zimbabwe will never achieve Zero tolerance to HIV which have been identified as some of the were barriers to accessing HIV prevention, treatment and care services.
The church has been found as one of the critical institutions AIDS organization could work with in the fight against HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination But in according to Anglican Bishop Chad Gandiya same problem also exists in the church.
“You get here and there. At times people do not want to come out in the open, about their attitudes towards those living with HIV and AIDS. But very often what happens is if something happens you find that people, they tend to shy away from those they know that they are living with HIV and AIDS. So we do our best in our church circles to teach our people to be accepting and live with those living with HIV and AIDS without discrimination,” Bishop Gandiya told Relzim in an interview in Harare at the weekend.
Latest statistics show accepting levels towards people living with HIV and AIDS among the general population stands at 39 percent among men and 40 percent among women.
Zimbabwe is targeting to increase the acceptance levels to 60 percent among men and 75 percent among women by 2015.
The Catholic Church in Zimbabwe and world wide is very supportive of those suffering from Aids and in Harare they have set up Mashambanzou to support and help may who are suffering and dying from this illness.Long may Sr Margaret and her band of sisters and workers continue in this wonderful ministry and also toe many other members of our Catholic church who are similarly engaged