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Religious leaders need to play a key role in their communities with their faith based leadership and commitment to move people forward into taking action in response to the demand for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, the Ethiopian Interfaith Forum for Development, Dialogue and Action (EIFDDA) said.
Program Department Head with EIFDDA, Yonas Jerenie, said that 20 percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS are exposed to stigma and discrimination. Yonas said people living with HIV/AIDS face problems from neighbors, friends and colleagues. He also stressed the need for integrated activities on the part of all religious institutions in this regard.
The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC), Abuna Mathias, on his part said the prevailing stigma and discrimination is due to the complexity and absence of proper awareness on the issue. He said lack of knowledge, unreasonable fear, and lack of transparency is some of the challenges that must be addressed to fully provide the necessary service to people living with HIV/AIDS.
Abuna Mathias stressed the need for religious institutions to strengthen efforts to prevent stigma and discrimination. HIV/AIDS campaign officer with the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, Ruth Foley, on her part said religious leaders need to create massive agendas and dialogues for discussion to combat HIV/AIDS amongst the community. The two-day forum was organized by the Network of Networks of HIV Positives.