Talking to congregations about HIV/AIDS every Sunday is one of the innovative ways that the (Anglican) Church of Nigeria is using to spread messages about HIV prevention and AIDS care.
Each Sunday the church’s AIDS co-ordinator, Emmanuel Olatunji, visits worshippers in their churches to discuss how they can avoid HIV infection and how they as a congregation can care for those who are affected in their community.
To drive his point home, he is accompanied by a person living with HIV/AIDS who shares his or her testimony. This helps to give credence that AIDS is real and even people who appear healthy can be infected.
At a service at Christ Church in the diocese of Abuja, Mr. Olatunji candidly explained ways in which HIV is transmitted and ways in which it is not. Parishioners appeared surprised to hear that sharing utensils and even clothes cannot transmit HIV. The service was spiced with drama and music about how to avoid contracting AIDS.
To demonstrate care for people living with AIDS, the congregation gave a love offering that will go towards helping Maureen Nnemeka ? who has the virus ? begin an income generating project and defray costs for purchasing anti-retroviral medicines.
More than six million people are presently infected by HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and it is estimated that one person gets infected every minute in the most populous country in Africa.
Christ Church ‘s rector, Rev. Simeon Babatunde, said his church will continue to give hope and support to people infected by HIV and those who have lost loved ones. “We cannot afford to look the other way when people around us are sick and dying. Our church will be AIDS-friendly,” he said.
The diocese of Abuja has a voluntary counselling and testing centre, situated at the All Saints’ Church compound and offers HIV testing and anti-retroviral drugs at controlled prices.