"It is not a sin going for the test": A qualitative study of attitudes towards HIV testing in Pentecostal churches in Mombasa, Kenya
Wanje, George Horace
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In sub-Saharan Africa, religious leaders are highly revered. They are in a position to play an important role in response to the HIV epidemic. This study explored the attitudes of religious leaders towards HIV testing in Pentecostal churches in Mombasa, Kenya. Individual in-depth interviews with seven Pentecostal religious leaders and four focus group discussions (FGDs) with congregation members were conducted. The in-depth interviews highlighted the range of views of the religious leaders towards HIV testing, while the FGDs illustrated the religious community norms that shape the congregations attitudes towards testing. Religious leaders were important in influencing the congregants' decisions about whether or not to seek HIV testing. Some religious leaders address HIV in their interactions with congregants and actively promote testing. However, many religious leaders do not talk about testing because of the stigma associated with HIV as a sexually transmitted disease. Religious leaders cited numerous barriers to advocacy for HIV testing in the church. These included conformity to religious norms on faith and righteousness, belief in faith healing of HIV, and a perception of the disease as God's punishment. A notable exception to the religious leaders' resistance to discussing HIV was the widespread acceptance of HIV testing prior to marriage. Focus group discussions highlighted the role of religious leaders in motivating congregants' decisions to seek HIV testing. Many FGD participants expressed desire for their religious leaders to advocate for HIV testing. These results highlight the importance of religious leaders in influencing HIV testing decisions among religious adherents. If barriers to discussion of HIV testing in Pentecostal communities could be addressed, religious leaders could play a key role in motivating church members to seek HIV testing.
- Global health