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 Tuesday 30 October 2007
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"It's hard to tell the congregation about my status"
June 2007 (PlusNews)

Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
Father Francis Nseka, DRC national coordinator for the International Network of Religious Leaders living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA).
NAIROBI, Father Francis Nseka is a Roman Catholic parish priest working in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Nseka spoke to IRIN/PlusNews about the challenges of being a priest living with HIV.

"I was ill for a long time and had lost a lot of weight before I was tested for HIV. Eventually, when I was tested, I was very shocked to discover my status.

I was discouraged and I accused God. However, I had a very understanding doctor, who counselled me and told me not to worry; with time I accepted my status.

I told my Bishop of my status and initially he wanted to help. Later, he wasn't so willing; I don't know what happened. I was looking for encouragement from other religious leaders who were living like me, and it was then that I met a Reverend who introduced me to the African chapter of the International Network of Religious Leaders living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS.

I am now the national coordinator for the DRC, providing support for other religious leaders living with my condition.

I have told some of my friends; it is hard to tell the congregation in church about my status, but I tell those who come to me individually. Those who are infected look for me.

It is difficult for religious leaders to provide HIV information in the church, but I encourage the church members to go to the voluntary counselling and testing centres to know their status, and not to stigmatise those who are infected.

In my opinion, HIV is not a moral issue ... when we make it a moral issue then it leads to discrimination and stigmatisation.

Before, the church was quiet on HIV issues but now it is more engaged. However, some religious leaders do not have HIV awareness and need to be trained because they have great influence on the congregation. "



[The above testimony is provided by IRIN, a humanitarian news service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.]

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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.