Rex Ajenifuja, HFA Executive Director, stated, “I am so delighted that we are able to work together in this mission to empower religious leaders to use their authority and reach in the best possible way – to offer care and compassion, to share accurate information, and to take action for the rights of people living with HIV.”
Nigeria has the second highest number of people living with HIV and deaths due to AIDS-related illnesses in any country according to UNAIDS statistics, with HIV prevalence rates increasing in Lagos. Stigma and discrimination contributes to the spread of the pandemic through the resulting isolation, loss of livelihood or education possibilities, and lack of support and care. The presence of HIV-related stigma also causes individuals to avoid testing and not seek the treatment and support they need to live full, productive lives.
“Getting this project for Lagos means a lot for the entire population of Nigeria,” emphasized Ajenifuja. “With over 15 million people, Lagos State constitutes about 10% of the entire country, with representation of every institution, every tribe and every clique in Nigeria. Everything that takes place there directly affects the entire country as a whole. It is our ultimate hope as we put every efforts together that the project will impact the country.”
This is the second grant received by WACC from DFID. An earlier DFID grant supported a local, rights-based communication strategy implemented by the Christian Council of Ghana to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination in three districts in the country. The three-year project concluded in June 2011.
“This grant award recognizes the quality and need of our proposed project as well as the success of our work in Ghana” stated Rev. Karin Achtelstetter, WACC’s General Secretary. “Through the intense efforts of the Christian Council of Ghana, we have demonstrated the transformation that can be achieved when you have a local, rights-based communication strategy that involves and empowers the real leaders in a community.”
Hope for HIV/AIDS International was founded in 1999 and is dedicated to training and advocacy among religious communities, especially with high risk and vulnerable groups such as people living with HIV, women, youth and children. A WACC-supported HFA project in 2007-2008 was nominated for a national “Red Ribbon” award, and received second place in the “Breaker of Silence” Category.
The WACC/Hope for AIDS project begins immediately and will run through December 2014.