The church and HIV/AIDS in Zambia : equipping and empowering the churches in Ndola district of the Copperbelt Presbytery with the knowledge and skills to minister more effectively to persons with HIV/AIDS
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Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3: 15a-16b NRSV).
When I started thinking about writing on HIV/AIDS in the Uniting Presbyterian Church, Copperbelt Presbytery, some people asked why I was writing on this topic. I had just served as a convener of HIV/AIDS committee at the Presbytery level. I also had had some experience in the ministry as a pastor relating to the people living with HIV/AIDS in the community. I realized that the church's response to the epidemic continues to be characterized by fear of contagion and by ostracism of the infected and affected, because HIVIAIDS is categorized as a sexual disease.
As I critically evaluate the church's response and involvement in the ministry of caregiving, it is important to remember that the powers of evil are very great and silence is their voice. To choose to remain silent is almost to declare that the church is contributing to the epidemic. Even when the church has spoken or acted in some ways, often it has humiliated the suffering neighbor. The Copperbelt Presbytery of Uniting Presbyterian Church remains hesitant to tackle challenges raised by the epidemic such as cultural, social, economic, and sexual practices that require public discourse by the religious community and African traditional communities. The church's belief has been that HIV IAIDS affects only the so-called risk groups. Any attempts to respond to the crisis have been seen as an affirmation that a Western life style is being practiced among the African peoples.
From the pastoral perspective, the church, which in the past has been quick to address a wide range of pastoral needs, has failed to address the issue of HIV/AIDS. The purpose of this study is to describe and analyze the Uniting Presbyterian Church's response and involvement to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the Copperbelt Presbytery. This thesis claims that the dangers inherent in HIVIAIDS pandemic in the Copperbelt Presbytery can be averted if the church approaches the issue of HIV/AIDS from a biblical/theological perspective. This perspective must be coupled, however, with a transformational learning theory of care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS in the communities. I claim that our mission in the HIV/AIDS era is to develop and implement prevention through Christian education, equipping and empowering leaders and church members to address the needs of our congregations in pastorally caring ways.
The recommendation of this study is a Home Based Care strategy, the intent of which will be to develop within the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa HIV/AIDS committees, clergy, and laity, who will engage in an active response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Home Based Care is a form of help and care given to people living with HIVIAIDS within their home environment (Romans 12: 12-13; 15: 13 ). Health institutions with a view to relieving pressure on Zambia's already over-burdened health facilities have promoted Home Based Care. This involved mainly because chronically ill patients who often stayed in the hospital for longer periods, thereby taking up space that could otherwise benefits many other non-chronic patients.
The thesis is divided into five parts. Chapter 1 is an introduction to the context of Copperbelt Presbytery in Zambia that includes key terms, and descriptions of the people and cultural system. In addition, it describes the problem, reasons for choosing the topic, significance and parameters of the study, methodology, and overview. Chapter 2 examines the church survey on the involvement of churches in the Copperbelt Presbytery in HIV/AIDS. The survey is on the impact of HIV/AIDS on social and economic development. It includes research on stigmatization and discrimination among the infected and the affected people as well as the church's involvement in caregiving to people living with HIV/AIDS and their family. Chapter 3 discusses the biblical/theological perspective on those infected with and affected by HIV IAIDS and those with a responsibility to act as caregivers. Chapter 4 describes an application of transformational learning of caregiving and Christian education to people living with HIV/AIDS and their families in the Copperbelt Presbytery. Chapter 5 includes the conclusion and recommendations for the way forward for the Uniting Presbyterian Church's involvement in the response to care for and support people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
Therefore, I conclude that it is necessary to develop a method of caregiving to people living with HIVIAIDS that goes beyond the individual care giving approach currently in use in the Copperbelt Presbytery. I also propose to prepare network to free care and treatment services in the churches of the Copperbelt Presbytery in partnership with the health centers.