HIV/AIDS and the church
The Interfaith Community Development Association (ICDA) together with Strategy & Tactics (S&T) recently completed a study to understand the role of the church with regards to HIV/AIDS for the Department of Social Development in the Gauteng Province.
The study saw ICDA & S&T identify the spatial location of churches around Gauteng, then document the services provided by the church and local organisations with regards to HIV/ AIDS, and finally interview select respondents from a sample of the churches. The interviews focussed on four topics, namely:
- the number of congregations or denominations,
- the HIV/AIDS programme that they are conducting,
- funding, and
- problems encountered.
For the first step we targeted churches under the three groupings, namely mainline, charismatic and independent. We conducted ten face-to-face interviews at eight different churches with individuals from the three groupings. Although the decision was to speak to deacons we found that some of the churches have assigned a specific person who deals with their HIV/AIDS programme and in that case we spoke to that particular person. A further 15 telephone interviews were conducted telephonically.
The eight churches we visited are all running some form of HIV/AIDS programme. The most common programmes were:
- HIV/AIDS awareness programmes,
- Voluntary counselling,
- Home based care,
- Support children orphaned by AIDS, and
- Child nutrition programmes.
Some of the churches mentioned that they were also running Hospice Wards within some areas of Gauteng.
Respondents mentioned that the most successful programme was home-based care and lack of funding was their biggest challenge. Some churches indicated that they received regular funding from external sources, but others were funding their programmes from their own coffers. All the respondents said they were disappointed because the government was doing very little to support their efforts.
Churches mentioned that if funding was available they would focus more on campaigns such as:
- Dissemination of information about HIV/AIDS and basic education about HIV/AIDS,
- Project management and education,
- Providing video courses to all local denominations,
- Identifying families that are vulnerable and assisting families to draw state grants,
- Mobilising congregations and congregants, and
- Basic education about HIV/AIDS support.
Most programmes run by the churches are targeting women and youth infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Other churches indicated that they also had outreach programmes which were extended to members of the community (for example, where they identified community members who are in need). If churches had sufficient funds they would encourage home-based care on a much larger scale to allow them to target these two groups.