Health in Faith Conference shares successes

Over the weekend, we gathered in Glasgow with African Faith Leaders and members of the community of all ages for a conference and dinner to celebrate our Health in Faith work.

Part of our African Health Project, the Health in Faith agenda has developed in recognition of the important role that African churches can play in supporting HIV prevention work – encouraging testing and helping to reducing new infections.

The conference highlighted the progress that the project has made. Since 2010, we have worked with over 60 African-led churches across Scotland, building strong relationships with Faith Leaders and delivering HIV prevention workshops and testing. However, staff highlighted the cultural and religious barriers that still exist around discussing HIV in African communities. This was underlined by Faith Leaders speaking at the event, who admitted their early caution about working with Waverley Care and how this has been overcome as staff build trusting relationships.

Our Health in Faith work is funded by the Scottish Government in recognition of the fact that HIV continues to disproportionately impact African communities. Over 2.5% of Scotland’s African population is receiving HIV treatment compared with less than 0.1% of the population in general. Given the important role that churches play in African communities, the Health in Faith work is an excellent way for us to engage with communities and begin to reduce new infections.

Elsewhere at the conference, attendees were able to view photographs from Images in Limbo, a photo voice study from the University of Edinburgh. We supported the Church of Scotland funded project, led by researcher Dina Sidvha, which tells the stories of asylum seekers and refugees who are living with HIV in Scotland through photography. The exhibition demonstrates the realities of homelessness and poverty faced by asylum seekers and the damaging impact this has on their ability to manage their HIV and maintain good physical and mental health.

We have been working with an increasing number of asylum seekers in Glasgow who are living with HIV. We were pleased to be joined at the conference by Cllr Martha Wardrop who has been working with us to raise awareness of the housing needs of asylum seekers in the city, and of the impact that homelessness has on their health and wellbeing. Carol Finlay from the Church of Scotland HIV Programme spoke on the importance of this work during the event.

Feedback from the conference will be brought together in a report in the new year which will help our Health in Faith work to develop and move forward. We would like to thank everyone who attended and contributed to the conference, and to the Voice of Hope and Greater Grace choirs who provided entertainment for the event.