Perceptions and activities of religious leaders on the prevention of HIV/AIDS and care of people living with the HIV infection in Ibadan, Nigeria
Ifeoluwapo O Asekun-Olarinmoye,1 Esther O Asekun-Olarinmoye,2 A Fatiregun,3 Olufunmilayo I Fawole3
1Department of Public Health, School of Public and Allied Health, Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, Nigeria; 2Department of Community Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Osun State University, Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria; 3Department of Epidemiology, Medical Statistics, and Environmental Health, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria
Introduction: The epidemic of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) continues in Nigeria despite efforts to control it. Meaningful efforts aimed at combating this disease must be multisectoral. However, despite the major influence religious leaders have in this society, their role has not been well studied. The aim of the study was to assess the perceptions and activities of religious leaders on prevention of HIV/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and care of people living with the virus in Ibadan, Nigeria.
Materials and methods: In a cross-sectional study, 336 leaders from eight religious denominations in Ibadan were surveyed utilizing a self-administered, semi-structured questionnaire. Respondents were selected by cluster sampling technique. Data was analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences software version 15.
Results: The mean age of respondents was 37.9 (± 13.5) years. The majority (97.6%) were aware of the HIV/AIDS scourge, and most had good knowledge of routes of transmission and modes of prevention (85.7%). Attitudes to people living with HIV/AIDS were positive in 84.2% respondents, and many practiced preventive measures (94.9%). One hundred and ninety (56.5%) respondents had ever preached about HIV/AIDS transmission and treatment to their congregations, while 257 (76.5%) used their position as a medium of educating their congregation about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it. Further analysis showed that respondents who were Christians (P = 0.026), had ever been married (P = 0.004), and were males (P = 0.002) were more likely to have ever preached about health issues to their congregations (individual role).
Conclusion: The study concluded that the religious leaders are well informed about HIV/AIDS and have adequate knowledge and positive attitudes towards people living with AIDS. However, they need encouragement and training to enable them to more effectively harness their position for HIV prevention and to control programs and activities among their congregation to thereby play a crucial role in the war against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.
Keywords: faith-based organizations, HIV/AIDS care, perception, prevention, religious leaders
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