Some churches in Zimbabwe have been accused of fuelling AIDS by going against expert advice on how to tackle the pandemic that has killed millions since the first case was reported in the country in 1987.
According to a new study, stigma and discrimination was most pronounced in church-related institutions of higher learning, which have fallen behind their peers in providing services aimed at combatting HIV/AIDS.
“105 per cent of students go to church. In church people get stigmatized: how did you get it? No compassion. Where do they go from there? Denial. We need to train church leaders. They are more vulnerable because they think they are protected by the church,” said a dean of students at the Harare Institute of Technology.
The study by Unesco found that stigma and discrimination were slowing down the HIV/AIDS response in many universities and colleges.
“Stigma and discrimination was found to be very high. There were no students reported to be openly positive about their HIV status,” the report says. “Self-stigmatization by students was also high. There were reported cases by the staff members where students did not want to share rooms with others because they were afraid to be seen taking their pills.”
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