HIV & LGBT Education
Educating Clergy & Laity About HIV and AIDS
The Center conducts HIV and AIDS seminars around the world to educate laity, clergy, and clergy spouses about the global pandemic. Clergy in Africa and Asia are often misinformed by the disease and may be fueling the stigma and discrimination. Education about human sexuality is included. By overcoming ignorance and fear, and helping persons respond theologically with love, compassion and care, the church can be a partner with others in helping end HIV and AIDS in the world. Workshops have been held in Thailand, India, Kenya, Malawi, South African, Rwanda, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Successful seminars bring together key clergy, their spouses, and selected lay leaders in a particular region. The seminars include medical education about HIV, speakers who are HIV-positive, theological and biblical reflections about the disease and how persons of faith should respond, and dialogue focused on stigma and discrimination. The ultimate goal is to equip pastoral and lay leaders with the technical and theological knowledge necessary so they can competently and compassionately a) support and advocate for persons in their church and community who are HIV-positive, b) promote evidence-based HIV prevention, c) speak out against stigma and discrimination, d) promote the human rights of all persons in their church and community, and e) develop AIDS ministries in their churches and communities.
Center leadership participates in the seminars. Pre- and post- evaluations are often used. Follow-up reports and conversations with sponsors and partners are encouraged. When funding is available, a follow-up seminar is highly desirable to update and reinforce learning and to track how leaders have actually failed or succeeding in developing effective AIDS ministries. In lieu of a follow-up conference, written reports and correspondence are encouraged.
Requests have been received for more of these workshops. If funding is received, it will be possible to expand the number of pastors, spouses and laity being educated about HIV and AIDS in countries like India, the Philippines, Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and elsewhere.
Each seminar in each country has its own story of success. For example, pastors and laity in the Kaaga Synod of the Methodist Church of Kenya are now deeply committed to an AIDS ministry. Led by their bishop and a director of AIDS ministries, each of the 20 key churches in this rural area has two volunteer community health workers, two peer youth advocates, and other volunteers engaged in education, prevention, care and treatment. They have identified over 1,200 vulnerable children orphaned by AIDS--and over 400 of these children are now being cared for by guardians, grandparents, or others. The church pastor and laity oversee this community-based orphan program. Over 850 HIV-positive people have organized in these 20 church centers, and meet regularly for support. Economic empowerment programs have been developed by church leadership to assist these persons. Muslims and Christians of all denominations are welcomed and served. One HIV-positive man commented, "Now I know what Methodism means--love in action!" Others have reported that "stigma has been reduced in our rural community because the church welcomes and includes everyone."