Examining the actions of faith-based organizations and their influence on HIV/AIDS-related stigma: A case study of Uganda
Murphy, Colleen K.
Ringheim, Karin E.
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Background: Stigma and discrimination are widely recognized as factors that fuel the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Uganda’s success in combating HIV/AIDS has been attributed to a number of factors, including political, religious and societal engagement and openness – actors that combat stigma and assist prevention efforts. Objectives: Our study aimed to explore perceptions of Uganda-based key decision-makers about the past, present and optimal future roles of FBOs in HIV/AIDS work, including actions to promote or dissuade stigma and discrimination. Methods: We analyzed FBO contributions in relation to priorities established in the Global Strategy Framework on HIV/AIDS, a consensus based strategy developed by United Nations Member States. Thirty expert key informants from 11 different sectors including faith-based organizations participated in a structured interview on their perceptions of the role that FBOs have played and could most usefully play in HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support. Results: Early on, FBOs were perceived by key informants to foster HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination. Respondents attributed this to inadequate knowledge, moralistic perspectives, and fear relating to the sensitive issues surrounding sexuality and death. More recent FBO efforts are perceived to dissuade HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination through increased openness about HIV status among both clergy and congregation members, and the leadership of persons living with HIV/AIDS. Conclusions: Uganda’s program continues to face challenges, including perceptions among the general population that HIV/AIDS is a cause for secrecy. By virtue of their networks and influence, respondents believe that FBOs are well-positioned to contribute to breaking the silence about HIV/AIDS which undermines prevention, care and treatment efforts.