Sierra Leone

INERELA+ Sierra Leone was launched in January 2007 following a partnership between INERELA+ Africa and Christian Aid in a retreat for religious leaders living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS.

INERELA+ Sierra Leone seeks to mobilise people especially religious leaders living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS and their communities to be an effective, powerful, multi-faith force that contributes to a reduction in HIV transmission and improves the quality of life for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Downloads:   Inerela Brochure ♦ Poster ♦ Pictures of HIV ♦ Religious Leaders Training Manual

Achievements

Recruitment of National coordinator
Pastor Albert Freeman was recruited as the new national coordinator of INERELA+ Sierra Leone. Pastor Freeman in his acceptance speech committed himself to the vision of INERELA+ and making a difference in religious communities across Sierra Leone.

Information, Education and Communication materials
INERELA+ Sierra Leone has developed HIV and AIDS information booklets which will be distributed across the country through faith communities. The information booklet addresses basic information on HIV and AIDS, Pro-SAVE¹ and anti-SSDDIM² approach and a guide to Positive living. For details on how to receive a copy of the booklet please send an email request to: inerelasierraleone [at] yahoo [dot] com

Engaging, Equipping and Empowering Religious Leaders in their faith Communities
On Sunday March 28th the first sensitisation of a church congregation took place at Door Ministries at the Old Police Barracks in Bo. A focus group discussion was held to gauge the perception of the congregants on HIV and AIDS. The findings of the study revealed that of HIV and AIDS knowledge is at 90%. However, the changes in attitude and behaviour shall be of particular interest as the network engages this community in faith based responses in the coming months.

In April 2009 the 10 religious leaders were introduced to INERELA+ Sierra Leone and taken through a training workshop. The aim of the workshop was to sensitise them to pertinent issues around HIV and AIDS within the religious communities as well as equip them with knowledge on Pro-SAVE approach. The following resources were also distributed female and male condoms, INERELA+ Sierra Leone booklet, Pamphlets with Pro-SAVE message and other booklets from NAS and UNICEF.

Annual Work plan 2009

  1. SAVE approach is a comprehensive HIV prevention model which stands for Safer Practices, Access to medication and nutrition, voluntary counseling and testing, and Empowerment through education.
  2. Stigma, Shame, Discrimination, Denial, Inaction and Misaction.

Annual Work plan 2009 < Click to view

Groupwork


Introducing INERELA+ Sierra Leone

INERELA+ Sierra Leone is an interfaith network of religious leaders – both lay and ordained, women and men – living with or personally affected by HIV. INERELA+ Sierra Leone’s mission is simple. We seek to mobilise PLHIV, HIV affected  faith leaders and their communities to be an effective, powerful, multi-faith force that contributes to a reduction in HIV transmission and improves the quality of life for people living with HIV.

INERELA+ Sierra Leone exists to:

  • To help PLHIV overcome self stigma and to break silence.
  • To stimulate the response of faith communities to HIV, ending societal and faith specific stigma and discrimination.
  • To advocate and engage in compassionate and effective HIV prevention, care, treatment and support.
  • To support our members to live positively.
  • To work towards a Sierra Leone where HIV infection and stigma related death is completely prevented and eradicated.

HIV the Basics and Beyond

HIV stands for:

Human                     
Immunodeficiency         
Virus

AIDS stands for:

Acquired
Immune
Deficiency
Syndrome

What HIV does?

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. When the virus enters the body it attacks the body’s immune system, the body’s natural defence that protects the body against infection.  he HIV virus attacks and damages the immune  system  leaving the body  unprotected and vulnerable to infection.  When  a person acquires  certain illnesses because of this damage to the immune system that person is said to have AIDS.

How do people contract the virus?

There are only four body fluids that can transmit HIV. These are:

  • Blood
  • Vaginal Fluid
  • Semen
  • Breast Milk

HIV therefore cannot be transmitted through:

  • Living together in the same house
  • Washing in the same place
  • Eating with people
  • Sleeping in the same bed
  • Sharing the same toilet
  • Mosquitoes bites
  • Playing together
  • Shaking hands/ hugging
  • Touching
  • Kissing
  • Tears
  • Preaching from the same pulpit

The INERELA+ Sierra Leone Approach to HIV is that of SAVE


MAKE SURE THAT YOU USE SAFER PRACTICES.

  • Condoms for sexual activity
  • Abstinence/Not having sex
  • Faithfulness to one partner
  • Safe blood for transfusions
  • Clean needles for injections

All of these safer practices are of equal importance to one another!

The medications for HIV positive people are anti- retroviral drugs (ARV) and medicines to treat infections that are caused by the weakening of the body’s immune system. These are called opportunistic infections (OIs). When taken consistently,  ARV medication reduces the amount of virus in the body to low levels  and can allow the person to live a more normal and healthy life.

The drugs work by stopping the virus from making copies of itself. This allows the bodies immune system  to recover and become strong again. However the drugs are not a cure, just a  treatment. They stop the progression of the disease but cannot get rid of the virus entirely. A person taking ARV medication will still be HIV positive and will need to carry on taking the  medication for the rest of his or her life.

INERELA+ Sierra Leone promoted the availability of ARV medication for all who require it as well as medication for  opportunistic infections (OIs). We also advocate for the availability of clean water and nutritious food for all. This is not only is a requirement for taking ARV medication  but it  also helps to keep the body healthy.

The majority of those people who are living with HIV are unaware of their status. This puts them and others at high risk. Without knowing your status you are unable to make informed decisions about your sexual life, and are unable to access the ARV medication that will help control the virus.

INERELA+ Sierra Leone advocates that everyone should have access to Voluntary Counselling and Testing. While we believe everyone should know their HIV status so they can take appropriate action, we believe that any HIV testing must be voluntary. No one should ever be tested for HIV against their will. We also believe that HIV testing  results must be kept strictly confidential. No one has the right to know someone’s HIV status unless that person chooses to disclose this information.

Knowledge is power. If people know and understand the facts of HIV they are more likely to make informed decisions that can protect themselves and others.

INERELA+ Sierra Leone advocates that  accurate , non–judgemental information must be made available to all. This will assist people to live positively whatever their HIV status and help to break down the barriers that HIV can cause between people and within communities.

We must not forget that HIV is  a virus and not a moral issue.

Positive living

Positive living is about taking the attitude that you can live a full and positive life with HIV. This guide suggests ways of balancing body and mind which will allow the average person to deal effectively with HIV.

Form the right relationship with yourself.

  • Take a positive attitude. I AM strong, I CAN be Healthy, I WILL live with the virus.
  • Eat well– nutritious foods, drink clean water, fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Try to avoid drinking too much alcohol. Avoid  recreational drugs.
  • Try to exercise– this can help boost the immune System and increase a sense of wellbeing.
  • Avoid stress as much as possible– this can weaken the immune system.
  • Listen to your doctor and  take your ARV medication every day and on time.
  • Follow all safer practice s– Take the attitude that HIV stops with me.
  • Make time for spiritual reflection and prayer.

Form the right relationship with your Neighbour

  • Don’t hide away– get involved.Join your local support groups (NETHIPS, AHPREL+ etc)
  • Become active in your community
  • Make yourself available to others who are worried about HIV – they may need your advice.
  • Promote HIV awareness within your religious community.
  • Allow others to minister to you—take help when you need it.

Disclosure of HIV Status

Disclosure is an entirely personal affair. There is not set method in disclosing nor should there be any pressure to disclose. You alone are able to judge whether you feel that you want to disclose or not.

The Potential Benefits of Disclosure are;

  • A free conscience
  • A weight off your shoulders
  • Access to care, support and love.
  • Access to counselling.
  • The ability to be a positive agent of hope and change within your community.

But the problem of disclosing is that people will often only assume one thing….

Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex  ,Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex , Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex.

This is an example of stigma and discrimination.

When people do not understand something they often react negatively. Thus the potential problems with disclosing are:

  • Relationship problems with your:  Spouse, Family, Friends, Community  Members, Colleagues and Employers.
  • Be prepared to become the victim of local gossip.

You must however be prepared for negative or hostile responses. But you also must allow others to express their feelings. Other people’s level of HIV knowledge may not be as great as yours so be patient and careful in your explanations. Given time you can work issues out.

You have to decide for yourself if it is the right thing to disclose your status. If you do decide to disclose the following offers a suggested process of how to disclose.

The Stages of Disclosure.

When you are considering disclosing. Think of the 4 “W”s.

Who you plan to disclose to?
Consider first disclosing to someone you feel that you can trust and who you feel will help to support you. This for example can be your spouse, a good friend or immediate family.

What you are planning to disclose?
Consider  that in disclosing your HIV status you are revealing scary information that some people will not be able to handle. You will need to be careful in explaining clearly what HIV is.

When is the most appropriate time to disclose?
Consider your timing, there is no rush to disclose. Make sure you choose a time and setting that you are comfortable with, and that you are prepared mentally for a potentially hurtful response.

Why you are choosing to disclose now?
Consider why you feel the need to disclose now. What has changed? What are the benefits of disclosing now?

STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION

Stigma and discrimination are the negative attitudes from people that cause fear, shame, isolation and denial  because of somebody’s HIV status.

Many of the negative attitudes towards people living with HIV are as a result of ignorance about how HIV is spread. However, stigma has been made worse by the view that HIV is somehow deserved through people’s choices of behaviour. Churches /Mosques have sometimes made this worse by preaching about HIV only in relation to sin.

The damaging effects of Stigma and discrimination:

  • It frustrates prevention, care and treatment efforts.
  • It creates an environment of fear and shame which inhibits testing and drives the HIV epidemic underground.
  • It intensifies emotional pain and suffering.

There are two different types of stigma

Societal stigma

People fail to understand the basics of what HIV is and how people contract the virus. Through the fear of not knowing the facts they change their behaviour towards somebody who is HIV positive.

People automatically associated HIV with sex and general immorality. This creates an  attitude that HIV positives somehow deserve their status.

The signs of societal stigma are:

  • Pointing fingers, unkind whispers and gossip.
  • Hurting statements
  • Rejection, isolation and starvation.
  • Denying/ withholding love care support and treatment
  • Mistreatment of an HIV positive persons friends and family.

The consequence of societal stigma is Self Stigma.

The shame of societal stigma causes suffering for those who are living with the virus. It causes:

  • A failure to accept themselves
  • A tendency to over blame themselves
  • A belief that they are incompetent, useless or very dangerous.
  • That they are destined to dying soon.
  • That they have sinned and cannot ever be forgiven or accepted.

The signs of Self-stigma are:

  • Feelings of shame, guilt & self hate
  • Denial, depression and withdrawal
  • Self destructive behaviour and tendencies.
  • Suicidal thoughts because of their HIV status.

How to overcome Stigma and Discrimination.

To fight stigma we must understand and accept that :

HIV IS A VIRUS: NOT A MORAL ISSUE

We must spread this message of hope amongst religious communities. We must develop & expand our congregational responses to HIV. Promoting awareness that is non judgemental, caring and compassionate.

We must be role models. We must show the world how to live positively with HIV. We must overcome our own negative fears and self stigma. We must preach to restore hope and to create a safe environment for PLHIV within our own religious communities .

We must revisit our religious language, our doctrines and our public messages.  We must repair the damage done by  previous religious statements.

WE MUST BE THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE.

Stigma cannot be wished away. BUT… With efforts that are greater than stigma we will eventually defeat this problem.


 

INERELA+ Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone Network of Religious Leaders living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS.

Contact Us:
INERELA+ SIERRA LEONE
26 Magao Street
Kindiya Town
Bo

Email: inerelasierraleone [at] yahoo [dot] com

 

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