By Ohemeng Tawiah, Nhyira Fm, Kumasi-Ghana – International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Affected by HIV, is calling for intensified efforts to eliminate discrimination against infected people.
The advocacy group is unhappy the fight against stigmatization is yielding little results due to negative attitude of the public, including pastors.
It blames some religious leaders of denying HIV-AIDS patients’ access to HIV Clinics and anti-retroviral drugs in the name of spiritual healing.
The International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Affected by HIV is made up of religious leaders who are HIV- positive and other members.
It was established to provide support, including counseling and testing services for religious leaders, whether or not they know their status.
Infected persons also have a platform to share their experiences with others.
Currently the network has offices in 18 African countries including Ghana.
Speaking at the Kumasi Chapter launch, National Coordinator, Mercy Acquah-Hayford, says it is time for religious bodies to join the crusade against the spread of the HIV virus.
“I will now appeal to people who lure our members to their prayer camps under the pretext of healing them and killing them at the end of the them…I challenge those religious who claim to have healing power tthat now, their colleague pastors are also HIV positives; come for them and heal them”. She challenged.
According to Mrs. Acquah-Hayford, several families have been inflicted with pains through the activities of the so-called faith healers who end up killing their HIV positive patrons.
Vice- Chairman of the group, Rev John Azumah, himself an HIV positive calls on government to make anti-retroviral drugs more available and accessible.
He is unhappy at the level of discrimination and stigmatization against HIV positives especially by religious leaders.
“I am a person living with HIV, for 10 good years, I have been living with the virus, and; I’m living ok.. My Senior Pastor that I confine in him, I told him I and my wife were HIV positives. The next moment he climbed the pulpit, he announced our status and the whole church carried the news-the next moment it was in the whole community”.
According to Reverend Azumah, her wife was denied using a public urinal in the neighbourhood because she was HIV positive.