By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
The President, Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN), Most Rev. Benebo Fubara-Manuel, has led a group of religious leaders, tutors in theological institutions and other stakeholders in the HIV and AIDS circle to Abuja for a consultative meeting with relevant government agencies.
The meeting, which was called at the instance of the Christian Council of Nigeria, focused on HIV treatment adherence, the complex concept of faith healing as well as its implications.
A communique read before journalists by Fubara-Manuel, said the meeting also discussed the need for religious leaders to facilitate adherence to anti-retroviral treatment for People Living with HIV within their congregations, and the need to identify strategies and programs to improve the effectiveness of physical and pastoral care programs for those affected by the disease.
Like other nations of the world, Nigeria has a target to diagnose 95% of all HIV-positive individuals, provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 95% of those diagnosed and achieve viral suppression for 95% of those treated by 2030..
Fubara-Manuel said the meeting, which took input from government officials and other experts, also discussed the need to reinforce the capacity of religious leaders to promote treatment adherence to maximise outcomes.
“One of the highlights of the consultation was the need for faith leaders to take their place in the fight against stigma and discrimination that always reverses the gains in the fight against HIV,” the communique added.
Also speaking, CCN’s General Secretary, Very Rev. Dr. Evans Onyemara, described the meeting as an eye opener on what needs to be done at their congregations with respect to claims for exclusive faith healing of HIV and AIDS.
“Often times, we discover that people talk about faith healing more than adherence to treatment. As much as we believe God can do all things, it is also important that we adhere to treatment which, in itself, is a miracle God has given us,” he stated.
On her part, Ayoko Bahun-Wilson, the Regional Coordinator for World Council of Churches Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy (WCC-EHAIA) West Africa, urged the participants to ensure consultative meeting has the desired multiplier effect that can improve the treatment outcomes of people living with HIV and also place faith in a better pedestal in responding to general public health issues.
According to her, “God heals, but in his own time. So, we should not command Him in terms of healing of HIV and AIDS.
“Even the anti-retroviral drugs is a miracle God has given us, because it helps people living with the disease to stay healthy and live productive lives. So, we should de-emphasise the exclusive claims of faith healing in the HIV response.”