Tag Archives: Gideon Byamugisha

Canon Gideon Byamugisha visits Leicester (7th July to 13th July)


A week of opportunities to build your knowledge and understanding about HIV and other social issues from a personal perspective with Canon Gideon Byamugisha

Who is Canon Gideon Byamugisha?
Rev Canon Dr Gideon B. Byamugisha is an ordained priest in the Anglican Church of Uganda. In 1992, he became the first African religious leader to openly declare his HIV-positive status. He has since devoted his life to an HIV / AIDS ministry which has taken him to over 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and many other parts of the world.

Gideon is driven by a passion for the dignity and rights of all people, especially those marginalised, stigmatised and discriminated against because of their HIV positive status. He has played leading roles in the Church of Uganda’s AIDS program, the Uganda AIDS Commission, World Vision International, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, Christian AID, special conferences of the United Nations, and in founding the African Network of Religious Leaders Living With or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS.

Rev. Canon Dr Gideon Byamugisha in Leicester
Canon Gideon is in Leicester & the area supporting different LASS events from 7th July to 13th July. Canon Gideon’s visit theme is “Love (in any language) fluently spoken heals”. “Reaching & sustaining zero new HIV infections, zero household level poverty, zero youth unemployment & zero socially sanctioned violence”

The following are open to the public and you are very welcome to come to one or more of these.

HIV & Belief Session
Wednesday 9th July 2014: 10 – 1pm
Venue: LASS (53 Regent Road, Leicester LE1 6YF)
Canon Gideon will lead this session on HIV and Belief – exploring issues about stigma, self-stigma, support for testing and condom use and reducing discrimination and prejudice.
The session will be of interest to people whose faith / belief plays an important role in their life also for those with an interest in the role that faith and belief have on people’s lives to help them cope or otherwise with a long term condition like HIV.

An audience with Canon Gideon
Thursday 10th July: 4pm – 8pm:
This is an opportunity for Faith leaders and elders to meet Canon Gideon at LASS. Come along and find out more about his ministry and the theme of this visit. Light refreshments will be served.

Football & Faith
On Saturday 12th July: LASS is holding a Football & Faith Event for all the family at Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester LE5 0TB. 6 football teams will compete for the LASS “Know your HIV Status” trophy; we will be entertained by Gospel choirs; there will be family entertainment including a Bouncy castle; address and prize giving by Canon Gideon. There will be different health information and testing available at the event including HIV testing, information about prostate cancer and blood sugar checks. Tasty food will be available to buy from different stall holders.

For Further information or a training session booking form:
Please contact LASS on 0116 2559995.

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Religion, HIV & Mental Health

This week, Nina Lakhani reported on the disturbing case of the Evangelical Christian Church which has been encouraging members of its congregation to cease taking medication altogether in favour of prayer alone.

The report revealed that three people died after discontinuing Anti Retro Viral treatment on recommendation of their pastor. In addition, it was also reported that a man committed suicide after following the advice of a pastor who convinced him to stop taking medication, believing that he was not suffering from a mental health illness. The cases are tragic and disturbing, but also highlight the gross misunderstandings that exist surrounding certain illnesses amongst religious communities and religious leaders.

In the case of mental health, there still exists a plethora of erroneous beliefs about mental health, ranging from ideas about aetiology to treatment. There exists a longstanding and often cited belief that “evil spirits” are a source of psychosis. In addition, amongst religious communities, I have often heard people with mental health illnesses such as depression being described as “being weak in faith”. Or that depression does not “exist” in Islam or Christianity. Such comments are not only flagrantly incorrect but are destructive to those with mental health problems and simply accentuate the stigma and discrimination that they already face.

In the case of HIV, a myriad of myths have circulated regarding both the causes and treatment of HIV which have been prevalent for decades. Recently, whilst I was in Ethiopia, I heard anecdotes of congregants of a church who had abandoned their Anti Retroviral treatment and opted, instead to bathe in holy river water.  It is worth mentioning, that bathing in holy water in itself is not necessarily a harmful practice, but discontinuing Anti Retroviral treatment against medical advice, is.

Kaiser Khan is well versed in navigating the religious beliefs of people living with HIV. Khan is the Muslim and Middle Eastern Support Coordinator at Naz Project London, the sexual health and HIV prevention and support service aimed at Black and Minority Ethnic Communities (BME), and has over 15 years experience of working with people living with HIV, who  often espouse to a particular religious faith.

“We don’t ignore religion” says Khan.

He explains further:  “a great proportion of our work is geared towards encouraging our clients to understand the medication that they are taking, to adhere to them, to understand the side effects, the regimen; so that they can be fully empowered to look after their health, this is not possible without taking medication”. “However, another part is to encourage resilience…and many of our clients feel that religion is important to them; it offers solace, hope and faith”.

One noteworthy person who understands the importance of both the physical and spiritual is Canon Gideon Byamugisha,  Canon Gideon was the first African religious leader to openly announce his HIV positive status and has expressed how ARVs and the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV have enabled him to have a healthy life and two HIV negative children. In his book, “Church communities confronting HIV and AIDS”, he clearly debunks the myths and lays science alongside Christian scripture and prayer.

Whatever our own personal views about religion, one must appreciate that a vast proportion of the world adheres to a particular religion or faith.

Physicians and health professions need to be cognizant of both the positive and negative role of religious leaders to patients’ health and well being, whilst also being religiously and culturally sensitive.

In addition, religious leaders need to be informed and educated about the causes and remedies of medical illnesses so that they can offer pastoral support to their congregation, which is appropriate, constructive and at the very least, not detrimental.

Original Article By Dr Sima Barmania at The Independent

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