Reverend Phumzile Mabuzela, Executive Director of International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS, has called on churches to integrate sexual education into the Sunday school curricula.

She said the Church has failed in empowering leadership to respond to real issues like rape and it is imperative for the missions to educate and be educated on social justice issues from a faith or spiritual perspective.

Speaking at a lecture in Accra on the topic: “Sexuality, spirituality and Sexual Violence in the context of HIV and AIDS,” Rev Mabuzela said the church had struggled to find positive terminology to discuss sexuality and sex.

The lecture was organised by the World Council of Churches in collaboration with the Christian Council of Churches, Ghana.

“Promoting spiritual education that totally negated the importance of sexuality is a worst mistake made by the church”, she added.

She expressed the need for a change in the upbringing of children by giving them the necessary information to make wise choices.

Rev Mabuzela called for a review of HIV prevention strategies, while homophobia and transphobia are challenges that has to be dealt with in the church.

She was of the view that culture and religion have been used to justify the oppression and violation of women’s dignity, while young women are still vulnerable to violence and HIV.

Rev Mabuzela said she has been openly living with HIV for 10 years and knew most women who were living with HIV, were either pressurised into sexual relationships or were victims of sexual violence.

She noted that the latest statistics on HIV prevalence rate is rising in the age group of 15-24 and the common mode of transmission is heterosexual activity.

She said research by UNESCO on the vulnerability of children and adolescents showed that most of them do not have enough knowledge on sex and that sexuality comes from their peers, internet, and media.

Rev Mabuzela urged persons who have not tested for HIV to get tested, since treatment isn’t the answer for AIDS but the challenges involved.

She indicated that sex isn’t just for procreation but also for recreation and urged religious bodies to promote test campaigns, and avoid discrimination and condemnation of persons living with HIV and AIDS.

Present at the lecture were representatives from the Young Women Christian Association, the Agape Methodist, Christian Council of Ghana, the World Christian Council and teachers.

The International Network seeks to empower youth through education, knowledge and skills to live positively and has developed a comprehensive methodology called SAVE which gives space to address a range of issues including sexuality in a positive way.