Can churches play a role in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic? A study of the attitudes of Christian religious leaders in Madagascar

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Abstract

Introduction: Churches occupy an important social and cultural position in Madagascar. The sexual transmission of HIV raises controversies about the role that Churches can play in preventing HIV/AIDS. This cross-sectional survey investigated recommendations by religious leaders for condom use and other preventive strategies in the context of international guidelines. Methods: A questionnaire was self-administered to a random sample of religious leaders. The questions related to preventive methods against HIV/AIDS such as: condom use, marital fidelity, sexual abstinence before marriage, and HIVtesting. Associations with recommendations for condom use were evaluated using univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses. Results: Of 231 religious leaders, 215 (93.1%) were willing to share their knowledge of HIV/AIDS with their congregations. The majority received their information from the media (N = 136, 58.9%), a minority from their church (N = 9, 3.9%), and 38 (16.4%) had received prior training on HIV. Nearly all (N = 212, 91.8%) knew that HIV could be sexually transmitted though only a few (N = 39, 16.9%) were aware of mother-to-child transmission or unsafe injections (N = 56, 24.2%). A total of 91 (39.4%) were willing to, or had recommended (N = 64, 27.7%), condom use, while 50 (21.6%) had undergone HIV testing. Only nine (3.9%) had ever cared for a person living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV). Multivariable logistic regression shows that condom use recommendations by religious leaders were negatively associated with tertiary level education (OR: 0.3, 95% CI 0.1-0.7), and positively associated with knowing a person at risk (OR: 16.2, 95% CI 3.2-80.2), knowing of an ART center (OR: 2.6, 95% CI 1.4-4.8), and receiving information about HIV at school (OR: 2.6, 95% CI 1.2-5.6). Conclusions: Malagasy church leaders could potentially become key players in HIV/AIDS prevention if they improved their knowledge of the illness, their commitment to international recommendations, and extended their interaction with people most at risk. © 2014 Rakotoniana et al.

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Rakotoniana, J. S., Rakotomanga, J. D. D. M., & Barennes, H. (2014). Can churches play a role in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic? A study of the attitudes of Christian religious leaders in Madagascar. PLoS ONE, 9(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0097131

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