Life in Religious Entities

Perusing through the ARHAP (African Religious Health Assets Programme) Newsletters, I came across a study on two countries in Africa, Zambia and Lesotho, where religious entities played an important role in the struggle for prevention and treatment of those living with HIV/AIDS. The focus of the study was on the contribution of religion and religious entities in the struggle for health and wellbeing in countries stricken with poverty, HIV/AIDS, and public health systems that are overused.

The study involved opinions of participants from the community, professional leadership of corporations and churches. The responses were from people of diverse religious backgrounds and from every walk of life, including the unemployed. These groups participated in workshops and special exercises where they gave feedback on their perception of how religious entities contributed to the health and wellbeing of those living with HIV/AIDS.

It was found that the religious entities operated within a network of relationships where secular entities and public health facilities worked together in the struggle against HIV/AIDS. These secular entities and public health facilities were well connected and active in the struggle to help with HIV/AIDS Alliances. They used their combined resources to find monetary funds, to come up with creative ideas and strategies on how they all could work together for the cause of HIV/AIDS. It was through these relationships that connections were made between the church and the secular world to help those living with HIV/AIDS in Zambia and Lesotho. These connections helped to give the possibility of longer life for the Zambians Lesotho people. Coherency was shown when participants identified ways in which HIV/AIDS had emerged as a crucial issue in the health and wellbeing of those living in Zambia and Lesotho. It was noted that the religious entities were concerned about finding help for those living with HIV/AIDS and to help others with resources for the prevention of HIV/AIDS living in Zambia and Lesotho. The religious entities understood the importance of having life, even in the mist of poverty for those living with HIV/AIDS. I believe that coherency existed here because the religious entities, secular entities, and public health facilities had a common goal of working on the issues that HIV/AIDS bring. They worked on behalf of those with the disease; to say that they could have life despite their situation.

The study found that religious entities contributed to the health and wellbeing of those living with HIV/AIDS in six ways, with spiritual encouragement being number one of the six. Spiritual encouragement provided people with the inner strength to keep going with courage and determination. Prayer was the vehicle in which many people received blessings that kept them lifted and moving forward to fight for their lives. The spiritual encouragement empowered the people as they gained a sense of hope that things would get better and that life could be lived.

Agency was seen when the participants came to their own sense of commitment in the struggle against HIV/AIDS. They committed themselves to help organizations and entities in the community to make a better contribution to health. They committed to share information, to working in smaller programs, to coordinating activities, to be inclusive of smaller faith based organizations and to find more ways to generate income for the cause of people living with HIV/AIDS. Leadership participants committed to unlocking resources, embracing diversity, supporting each other, have a common goal and to continue to network together against HIV/AIDS.

The people of Zambia and Lesotho received compassionate care in the fight against HIV/AIDS when religious entities, secular entities and public health facilities found ways to not only connect with those living with the disease, but also with each other. It was through coherency that these entities came to a common goal that was important enough to fight for. The people received blessings through spiritual encouragement and they gain a sense of hope. Lastly, agency occurred when these entities and health facilities collaborated together and committed themselves to the cause of HIV/AIDS.

Joyce

About garygunderson

Vice President, Faith Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders and Religion and the Heath of the Public. Secretary, Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group).
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