partnership for an aids-free generation
SCOPE's collaborative engagement model brings together religious and medical communities arounds a common goal of realizing an AIDS-free generation and improving the lives of people affected by HIV/AIDS.
In 2010, SCOPE formed a partnership between our schools of public health in the US and Ethiopia, our US faith partners, and the North Gondar Diocese in Ethiopia. On their first project they celebrated the opening of a museum of religious treasures by putting on an HIV/AIDS testing campaign. More than 800 people were tested for HIV through the testing campaign held on the diocese grounds where public figures, including the Archbishop and 55 priests, were among the first to be tested. Since the inception of the partnership, SCOPE fellows and staff have worked with leadership of the North Gondar diocese to provide training to religious leaders designed to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention, control, support, stigma-reduction, and care.
HOLY WATER SITES:
Holy water sites in Ethiopia are traditional places of healing. People of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faith, who make up 85% of the population in the Gondar region where SCOPE works, travel for miles or even days to seek the curative powers of holy water blessed by Orthodox priests. Visitors drink holy water and submerge themselves in pools to receive healing.
Those who visit these sites believe that holy water conveys the curative powers of God and can heal any illness from HIV to depression or anxiety.
This tradition offers a unique opportunity to reach populations that are typically difficult to access for health education and services, including people living with HIV. SCOPE works with health workers and Orthodox priests at six traditional healing sites in Gondar to encourage holy water users with HIV to supplement holy water with antiretroviral medicine. Orthodox priests are trained to counsel, support, and refer parishioners who disclose their HIV status to the health system for treatment. SCOPE is particularly focused on ensuring that people living with HIV are accessing antiretroviral medication in addition to holy water, and encouraging those who don’t know their HIV status to be tested. Similarly, for patients who have been tested in the past and are not sure that their HIV remains, HIV retesting is available and encouraged at holy water sites.