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Connecting Sexual Health and Mental Health with Faith Leaders in Forth Valley

At the beginning of April, Bibiana Zirra (African Health Project Outreach and Prevention Worker) carried out a number of workshops in Forth Valley.

“I learned that mental health is so strongly connected with HIV, with the stigmatisation, rejection and all these things. What I can say is we need more of these conversations in our communities. I am the vice chair of a local community group and I definitely want to hear more of these conversations and I can’t thank Waverley Care enough for the work they are doing. For someone, that can make the difference between life and death, knowing that there’s someone who can offer support in such a distressful situation is phenomenal.” – Community Member

“We organised a sexual health and mental health workshop for faith leaders. This was to make them aware of how your sexual health could affect your mental health and, encourage them to speak about the importance of checking your health to their community members.” – Bibiana

We were delighted with the turnout, with a number of community members joining us for the workshop as well as faith leaders. During the workshops, everyone who attended was enthusiastic about engaging in the subject and shared their own experiences of HIV and, talking about sexual health and mental health within their community.

“Being here I realise for AIDS, there is that stigmatisation that we used to give to people. I was born in Ghana so coming from Africa, I heard so much about it as a child so I didn’t want to get close to anyone who had AIDS. But unfortunately one of my uncles had it so he was put in a different place and now I realise that that wasn’t needed, it created a lot of issues. If I had known the information that I know now at that time, I don’t think it would have been as bad and he wouldn’t have died from it, if the medication was there. But then we were not open minded and we tend to stigmatise people, so it made him lose his life when he could have probably survived it.” – Community Member

Through these workshops, we are empowering faith leaders to support community members who may be experiencing challenges with their sexual health and mental health. We are also helping challenge HIV related stigma by encouraging community members to have open conversations.

“For the mental health I’ve learned a lot and I’ve realised that even if you think you’re okay and don’t have any mental issues in your family, it can come at any time. It can happen because you are stressed out or maybe you’re unable to take care of yourself. So if we realise we are going through mental issues we should be open about it and talk to people that will help.” – Community Member

Our next session with faith leaders in Forth Valley takes place on May 5th 2019. A big thank you to  NHS Forth Valley for funding our work – your support ensures we can make a positive difference in Forth Valley.

“Today was a really insightful day for me. I got to know the difference between HIV and AIDS, which can sometimes be very blurry. And hearing the stories of HIV survivors was actually mind-blowing. Getting to know how people can actually live life to the full despite the diagnosis. It’s no longer a death sentence – that’s the message I got from all the sessions.” – Faith Leader

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