Religious Leaders from different religious and faith formations have vowed to play an active role in helping curb the national HIV/AIDS prevalence and put it at an all-time low of 15%, Newsday has learnt.
The revelation follows a weeklong National Religious Leaders Forum held at Mohale in the outskirts of Maseru last week by the National AIDS Commission (NAC).
The forum was held in recognition of the influence and ability religious leaders have on the communities to influence behavioural change in a move to curb the HIV prevalence.
According to one of the participants, Abdulmalik Sekhonyana Molapo from the Islamic faith, they are committed to see a positive change in the in the country in the fight against the HIV pandemic in the country.
In an interview with Newsday, Molapo pointed to their dedication as religious leaders as he lauded the forum as one very successful initiative.
“The leaders guaranteed to help and reduce the HIV prevalence in Lesotho from 23% to below 20% which is at least up to 15% by the end of the year 2021,” he said.
Molapo indicated that there was no structure setup in the fight against the pandemic before the National Religious Forum, a feat which he said is a show of success.
“Apart from the forum, we now have the board and the committee that is going to monitor how we do things in helping in the fight against HIV in the country,” he said.
“In 2007 stakeholders in the fight against HIV tried to engage us but nothing fruitful came out of that. It was only a few years back when we were engaged and the results were seen. Since then, the prevalence of HIV decreased, hence NAC saw a need to invest in the religious leaders, and with their help and other stake holders, we renewed our commitment that led to the Forum. As leaders we are committed to help in the fight against HIV. We will do even more than we have been doing by preaching to our congregants of the importance of testing and getting treatment. We will do so while also preaching uniform information,” he said.
Commenting about the forum which went on between March 21 and 26, NAC Communication and Advocacy Officer, Mzodase Tsepane, praised it as a success.
“The biggest agendas for the forum was the ownership of the HIV/AIDS response as the faith sector, cohesion amongst faith leaders and capacity building. Ownership in the sense that, faith leaders are not supposed to always be fed with information but they should find themselves having direct intervention. They feel themselves leading in matters of HIV/AIDS as they do in people’s faiths. They should own the faith-based response in HIV/AIDS in the country,” she said.
Tsepane indicated that when it comes to cohesion leaders should be able to show uniformity.
“What they preach to the public should be uniform when addressing HIV/AIDS issues in their different congregations. On the capacity building there were presentations meant to update our faith leaders on the status of HIV in the country so that they do not feel left out but be informed with the current situation,” she said.
Tsepane indicated that the NAC expect that the religious leaders go and advocate for the HIV/AIDS response in the faith sector because they already play an important role in leading people in their faiths.
The forum had attracted attendance from the different faith formations such as Christians, Bahai and Muslims.