Culturally Sensitive Approaches

Lessons from the Field


Mobilizing Religious and Traditional Leaders in the Fight against HIV/AIDS

The faith community and traditional leaders in Malawi represent a vast, largely untapped resource that must be effectively supported through awareness-raising and capacity-building programmes if HIV/AIDS is to be successfully combated at all levels of society.

WHAT WORKS? Lessons from Malawi

  • Faith-based organizations should be given attention and support that is proportional to their size and coverage. Many members of the clergy are well educated, well organized, and capable of carrying out tasks to international standards.

  • Influential people within the culture should be consulted on how best to prevent the spread of HIV. Culturally sensitive methods of condom distribution should also be devised, in collaboration with traditional authorities and, where possible, religious institutions.

  • Religious institutions that are attempting to create a theological approach that is HIV/AIDS sensitive should be supported. For many institutions, such efforts could be critical in creating a new generation of teachers and leaders who are instrumental in defeating HIV/AIDS.

  • In the case of numerous indigenous Pentecostal churches, work could be carried out with larger umbrella organizations, which can help to ensure accountability while filtering support to smaller, communitybased churches.

  • Promoting awareness among traditional leaders about HIV/AIDS and channeling resources to rural communities is essential since these areas are in desperate need of long-term programmes to combat the epidemic.

  • Facilitating collaboration among faith-based organizations and traditional leaders could help to promote behaviour change and address harmful traditional practices that contribute to the spread of HIV.

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