On Friday 18th February, Terrence Higgins Trust and leading African faith groups held the first UK conference on HIV prevention in the African community. The conference brought together influential faith organisations and HIV prevention experts to learn from each other, and to provide greater support for African people living with HIV, and prevent more people from becoming infected.
Over 140 people attended the conference, which has been hailed a great success by conference organizer Walter Gillgower of Terrence Higgins Trust: “We had a fantastic turnout and some really inspirational speakers. The conference has opened up a conversation with faith organisations, which will make a huge difference in tackling the stigma, ignorance and discrimination surrounding HIV which still exists in the African Community in the UK.”
“African communities must face the fact that HIV is a part of our community. In order to prevent more people becoming infected, we need to talk about HIV far more openly and work with the church to support people living with the virus.”
Outcomes from the conference include: an integrated plan involving both faith organisations and NGOs to target African communities, especially African men; identifying barriers to HIV prevention; providing training for faith leaders on HIV prevention and care, and an overall commitment to work positively to support faith organisations in their HIV prevention and care work for people living with HIV.
Rev Herbert Palm of Unique Salvation Ministries in South East London, speaking at the event said: “He [Jesus] did not come for those who are well but he came for those who are sick.”
Rev Palm also tackled the issue of condom use and urged married couples to use condoms where one or both partners is HIV positive. He has an active health promotion ministry which includes seminars, drama and visiting those with HIV related illnesses.