264429 Stakeholder perceptions of the role of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in improving HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 1:00 PM - 1:15 PM

Sophia Teshome, MPH , School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Judd Walson, MD, MPH , Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Shitaye Alemu, MD , College of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Gondar, Gondar, Ethiopia
Background: Approximately 50% of the entire population in Ethiopia belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC), but in the Northern region of the country, more than 83% of the population is Orthodox Christian. In this deeply religious country, where access to health professionals is limited and HIV prevalence is high, research has shown that religious leaders can be very effective at breaking the silence surrounding HIV/AIDS, overcoming misconceptions about the disease, creating behavior change, and addressing stigma. This study sought to examine ways to improve partnerships between faith and medicine in Gondar, Ethiopia.

Methods: Data collection methods used for this mixed methods study design included in-depth interviews with key informants, a cross-sectional community survey, direct observation, and an extensive literature review. Study participants were selected by purposive snowball sampling and a thematic content analysis was conducted following transcription of interviews from Amharic to English.

Results: A majority of study participants indicated that religion influences HIV prevention and treatment in the community. Stakeholders perceive the EOC to be highly effective in promoting behavior change, reducing stigma, increasing access to psychosocial support, improving uptake of voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) and adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimens.

Conclusions: Although some limitations exist, partnerships between faith and medicine can be utilized to improve HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment in Ethiopia. Interventions using the Ethiopian Orthodox Church could be particularly effective in promoting behavioral change, increasing awareness of testing and treatment, and providing psychosocial care and support to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Learning Areas:
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
1)Explain the role of religious leaders in improving HIV/AIDS prevention,care,and treatment in Northern Ethiopia 2)Identify ways to integrate partnerships between faith and medicine 3)Demonstrate the importance of culturally appropriate and community-based interventions

Keywords: HIV/AIDS, Community-Based Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have held multiple positions with global health organizations in Ethiopia working on HIV/AIDS issues and I will have completed my Master of Public Health degree by the time of presentation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.