Sinkat Religious Leaders Join the Fight Against HIV/AIDS at Locality Level


Sinkat, May 25 2009: Red Sea State has been one of the first states in Sudan to respond to the HIV/AIDS challenge in the country. Serving as Sudan’s main sea port, the state is inundated with human traffic including entrepreneurs, truck drivers, and soldiers.

A number of awareness and intervention campaigns about the dangers of HIV/AIDS have been organized in the state. However, the assistance of religious leaders was needed to reach out to a larger number of the population.

Over the years, religious leaders have had a strong influence on the Sudanese social fabric. Their revered status and tolerant approach have enabled them to reach a wide audience and become engaged with the society’s daily concerns. In recognition of their vital role, the Ministry of Religious Guidance and Endowment in collaboration with UNDP and the Sudan National AIDS Program (SNAP) organized a number of workshops across Sudan on HIV/AIDS.

Recently a 3-day training session took place in Sinkat locality in Red Sea State on 17-19 May. The training aimed to mobilize Muslim religious leaders’ support for the fight against HIV/AIDS in Sudan. It focused on the need for increasing a more positive attitude towards people living with HIV/AIDS and ending stigma and discrimination. Religious leaders received an orientation on preventive methods against HIV/AIDS and the availability of treatment in the Voluntary Confidential and Counseling Centers in Sinkat

The training used a special module endorsed in February 2008 by Muslim and Christian leaders to build the capacity of religious leaders in responding to HIV/AIDS in Sudan. The training module focused on enabling religious figures to promote spiritual values of care and compassion for people living with HIV/AIDS.
A member of the Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS also participated in the workshop; relaying his own experiences and encouraging participants to approach Voluntary Confidential Counseling and Testing Centers (VCCT).

So far 30 VCCTs across 15 northern states provide HIV testing services to visitors in a confidential and non- discriminatory manner. The centers also act as information dissemination centers that provide information on HIV infection and means of prevention.

It is hoped with religious leaders spreading the word of tolerance and compassion toward people living with HIV/AIDS, more people would seek the centers’ assistance on a voluntary basis.


 
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