Yemen, already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, recorded its first COVID-19 case last week.

22.9 million[1] people across Africa are living with HIV. The social stigma associated with HIV means that for many people living with HIV is not just about their health, but also about their livelihoods, their home, community and family. Reducing the social stigma of HIV supports those affected by HIV to gain work, earn a living, live with those they care about, talk about their status, access the care they need, and ultimately to live with HIV. In turn, this increases the willingness of others to get tested, to discuss HIV prevention and hence to tackle the spread of HIV.

Reducing social stigma is hard. In many communities, faith provides the backbone to people’s attitudes and behaviour and so faith leaders and faith communities have remarkable influence over beliefs around HIV. By refusing to acknowledge HIV or through messages linking HIV with morality, faith can drive stigma. Consequently CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) in partnership with GNP+ (Global Network of People living with HIV) created the ‘Stigma Reduction Initiative’. This programme was launched in Kenya, Ethiopia and Zambia and used a peer to peer approach, based on people living with HIV ‘surveying’ others also living with HIV about their own experiences of stigma, discrimination and faith. The findings from the surveys were then shared with faith leaders who were supported to develop action plans to reduce stigma and discrimination in their communities.

Katie Chalcraft of Wasafiri Consulting was asked to evaluate the impact of the Stigma Reduction Initiative. We found a notable improvement in the HIV-related knowledge, attitudes and practices of the faith leaders involved in the initiative in the 3 pilot regions. More specifically, among the people living with or affected by HIV involved in the survey in Adigrat (Ethiopia) and Ibenga (Zambia) there was a general decline in exclusion from from social, family and religious activities, and improvement in the psychosocial aspects of peoples quality of life and increased uptake of HIV testing in the target communities.

For more information about Katie Chalcraft and her work please visit her profile here

Lead for CAFOD on this work was Georgia Burford. To learn more about CAFOD and their work with faith communities and on stigma reduction visit here