ZANZIBAR FAITH BASED ORGANIZATIONS IN THE PREVENTION OF HIV AND AIDS IN ZANZIBAR
Zanzibar AIDS commission (ZAC) was established in 2002 to coordinate HIV and AIDS activities to fight the epidemic and reduce the spread of HIV infection. Since then ZAC took the responsibility and worked with many stakeholders and partners including faith based organizations (FBOs) and religion leaders.
The FBOs regardless of their faith formed an interfaith committee to begin with and developed a work plan under the support of ZAC and development partners to implement their activities.
Recognizing the growing need of responsibility and commitment in HIV and AIDS prevention, the interfaith committee was then transformed into Zanzibar Inter-faith Association for the Development and AIDS (ZIADA) ZIADA is now the recognized inter-faith in Zanzibar. It is working with ZAC, UNAIDS, and developing partners and supported on HIV and AIDS prevention.
2. IMPLEMENTED ACTIVITIES
• Capacity building:
The FBOs and religious leaders have been trained to capture scientific and basic facts on HIV and AIDS. They have also been sent on study visits to such countries of the same environmental background to gain, share and change experience like Tanzania mainland, Uganda, Nigeria, Senegal, Malaysia, Indonesia and others. They have been subjected and familiarized to strategic planning, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation and other relevant areas and required knowledge and skills to undertake HIV and AIDS prevention.
This is the main area and the main task of the faith based organizations and religious leaders at their comparative advantage. The HIV and AIDS prevention, they have been engaged face to face to talk, give speeches, answer questions in mosques, churches, madrasas, Sunday schools, congregations and prayers. The knowledge given with the spiritual concept is towards change in attitude and behavior to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.
Topics like sex before marriage, pretesting, IDU, Men sex with Men and anything to do with ZINAA are well received and supported and could be discussed anywhere and anytime. Condom promotion, needle exchange or using of new syringes programmes in HIV prevention on the other hand are sensitive and challenging issues.
• Learning and teaching materials.
IEC/BCC goes hand in hand with supportive learning and teaching materials. The FBOs and religious leaders have produced pamphlets, booklets, posters, manuals, and guidelines. They have been based on religious concept.
Supported with Quran and Hadith of the pamphlets in case of the Moslem materials and the Bible for the Christians. These different development materials have been widely distributed and used.
• TV and Radio programmes
Opportunities have been used to air many programs from FBOs and religious leaders in Zanzibar. HIV and AIDS sports, panel discussions; questions and answers and other programmes, live and recorded produced. Zanzibar state cooperation T.V, Cable T.V, Zanzibar Radio cooperation; and other public and private media station have been fully utilized.
Some of the religious institution especially, of the churches which are running clinic centres do provide V.C.T services. The services include normal counseling.
• Pre-marital testing.
This is a specific task all religion in Zanzibar insists on pre-marital testing. The general population acknowledges this as one important way to prevent the spread of HIV.
• Spiritual counseling
No doubt stigma is little by little reducing, still some PLHIV are experiencing it in their own families contacts and community. Therefore the religious leaders working with home based care (HBC) providers and ZAPHA+ do have visits to provide spiritual counseling to ones who need.
- Zanzibar has acknowledged the work and contribution of the FBOs and religious leaders on HIV and AIDS prevention (ZAC and Development Partners).
- Some teams have been recommended to visit learn and change experiences of Zanzibar Inter-faith.
- There are some religious scholars recognized from Zanzibar who have been giving consultations and share knowledge and experiences at high level.
- Guidelines and manuals with the religious concepts have been produced to assist others.
- The inter-faith spirit has brought the people to work together the prevention of HIV and AIDS forgetting their differences. This module demonstration could be applicable to any other program.
- Pre-marital testing has been accepted and acknowledged among one of the important ways of preventing the spread of HIV. Women in particular would make sure that their daughters and sons get tested before marriage.
- Although condom use is very low in Zanzibar, religious leaders have recognized its importance in the prevention of HIV and AIDS. It is sensitive to discuss it openly, and to distribute it freely. Religious leaders accept condom to be discussed in relevant groups. Condom can be used among one of the married couples infected or in the process of pre-marital testing if one is infected to save the marriage. In principle marriage is important and a priority to avoid ZINAA, they comment. They also say that the medical ruling is acceptable as part of treatment in this regard.
- In all faiths stigma is unacceptable. FBOs and religious leaders all are against stigma and are giving full support against it.
- Resources are very scarce. ZIADA is missing the basic facilities to manage its functions. It is still under ZAC. It has no office. It depends on supports from development partners.
- Sensitive issues like condom, people hesitation to go for testing to know their status due to stigma, face to face discussion with hey population specifically Men Sex with Men and their clients. Female sex workers and their clients, recommendations of using new syringes or needles for IDUs these need excessive strategies and approaches.
- A part from ZIADA, still many FBOs capacity in terms of resources, facilities and knowledge is very limited. They lack manpower and administration facilities.
- From the nature and the real situation of the set up of the issues. Pemba quits often and on may occasion would miss important involvement, participation and contribution. It is taken for granted that FBOs main offices are in Zanzibar and that Pemba are represented.
5. LESSON LEARNT
- Inter-faith approach for Zanzibar is really good. It is working. People have built a trust and tolerance.
- Religious programs on HIV and AIDS are less costly. They are also cost effective and could the sustainable.
- Most issues can be discussed- like condom. Religious leaders are not against condom. They are against condom promotion, not condom use. Condoms can be provided to lawfully married couples if one is infected to stop spreading the virus to the healthy ones and that of the families. Likewise condoms can be provided to save marriage and stop ZINAA as a result of pre-marital testing, one is found positive.