RELIGION-AFRICA: Integrating HIV/AIDS in Theological Curriculum
GABORONE, Feb 15 (IPS) - Future batches of priests coming out of
theological institutions in nine African countries will benefit from a
training workshop to help them better understand and handle HIV/AIDS.
Sixty participants from Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, South Africa,
Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe attended trainers'
workshops in Johannesburg, South Africa and Gaborone, Botswana recently.
After the workshops, the participants were sent home with the task of
organising a national workshop that would further train other lecturers
church has been charged with responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Instead of standing with those who are living with HIV/AIDS, the church
responded by associating the disease with a punishment from God. This
added to the stigma, as it became increasingly held that those living
with HIV/AIDS had somehow brought it upon themselves.
Further, the church's approach to prevention is riddled by controversies
over the use of the condom. The condom, the church holds, promotes
promiscuity. This standpoint ignores the fact that many innocent
children are born with HIV/AIDS. That many who attempt to abstain are
raped at home and on the streets and 80 percent of married women who are
HIV/AIDS positive acquired the disease through their partners, despite
Abstaining and being faithful, like condom use, is not a hundred percent
safe, health workers say.
church, however, being an institution that is closely in touch with the
people and families, could not entirely ignore the disease. When the
last stages of HIV/AIDS pull in, families call upon religious ministers
for prayers, counselling and burial..
need for equipping church ministers to adequately deal with HIV/AIDS is
undoubtedly obvious. Apart from their negative response to the disease,
most ministers were trained in the days when the disease was not known.
Some of them were new ministers, but too many of them are still
graduating from their theological school with no training in HIV/AIDS
was important that church ministers are trained to work effectively in a
HIV/AIDS era. In particular, it is important that theological
institutions, responsible for training ministers, should review their
curriculum to mainstream HIV/AIDS in all courses; introduce core courses
on HIV/AIDS prevention and care; and run short courses for pastors in
two workshops, held in Johannesburg and Gaborone from Aug 26 to 31 and
Sep 9 to 14 respectively, began with individual self-assessment in so
far as HIV/AIDS is concerned. This culminated in repentance and
willingness to move on to be part of the solution both in prevention and
an attempt to break the silence surrounding sexuality in church and
culture, participants were asked to name the sexual organs in their own
mother tongues. Most people said they could not do so because many of
the words were in popular usage tantamount to vulgar words or insults.
The Mozambican participants said they use the word Shihoto, meaning
something dangerous, to refer to sexual organs.
ice broken, participants were divided into working groups, comprising
people from different countries. The groups were set the task of
assessing how many theological institutions have integrated HIV/AIDS in
their curriculum, either as individual courses or as separate courses.
The findings were quite revealing; Little or nothing had been done.
rest of the workshop days focused on how to integrate HIV/AIDS in
biblical and theological studies, in counselling and how to write a
successful project proposal.
Participants from different countries worked in national groups to plan
courses that integrated HIV/AIDS in the curriculum and presented their
efforts to the rest of the group. They also designed new courses,
focusing on HIV/AIDS that they shared with the other groups.
Given that HIV/AIDS calls for more community leadership from church
ministers, they were also trained on writing project proposal,
monitoring and evaluating a project during the workshops.
workshops also tried to intertwine analytical skills and theological
frameworks that could enable church leaders to have a better
understanding and stance on HIV/AIDS care and prevention. Some of the
paradigms adopted were a theology of life, healing creation, and
issue of gender analysis proved quite difficult, for church leaders.
Although research indicates that gender inequalities are a major driving
force behind the spread of HIV/AIDS, many ministers believe that God
ordained gender disparities.
the end, each country was asked to choose its own chairperson, secretary
and additional members of the committee. These committees have been
asked to organise and call their own national 'Training of Trainers'
workshop, which would ensure that all lecturers in theological
institutions in each country, would have integrated HIV/AIDS in the
Church ministers, who graduate from such institutions would be better
equipped to serve in their committees than those who have to learn all
about HIV/AIDS when they are already serving in their congregations.
addition, church leaders who were never trained for HV/AIDS ministry
would be offered short courses. The last stage will mark the success of
these workshops, in the sense that they sought to train trainers - those
who are supposed to go out and make more disciples.
HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa. The
estimated 3.4 million new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa in 2001
mean that 28.1 million Africans now live with the virus, according to
UN body estimates that 2.3 million Africans died of AIDS in