NINERELA+: Illuminating the Path to Compassionate Faith-Based HIV Response

By Amber Erinmwinhe

Faith-based HIV response is not only important but also an indispensable component of the broader fight against HIV/AIDS. The values of compassion and inclusivity, combined with innovation and community trust, make faith-based organizations powerful allies in the struggle to eradicate HIV stigma and discrimination.

They demonstrate that faith and science can coexist and work harmoniously to bring about positive change.

NINERELA+, as a faith-based organization operating at the intersection of religion and healthcare, has made remarkable strides in the realm of faith-based HIV response. Their mission is to provide holistic, inclusive, and stigma-free responses to HIV. In this article, we will delve into the innovations that NINERELA+ and CIHP, under the IRIS Project, have adopted, contributing significantly to the National fight against HIV.


One of the cornerstones of NINERELA+’s approach is the empowerment of religious leaders. Understanding the immense influence these leaders have within their communities, NINERELA+ has conducted extensive training programmes. By arming religious leaders with the knowledge and skills to address HIV stigma, these individuals are not only fostering understanding but also leading by example. Their sermons and teachings have become plat-forms for change.


NINERELA+ has created a powerful tool for faith-based HIV response – a sermon guide on HIV. This guide equips faith leaders with the resources to address HIV-related issues during their sermons. It serves as a transformative platform to engage congregations in discussions that reduce stigma and discrimination while promoting compassion and understanding. Through these sermons, NINERELA+ has opened doors to dialogue and change within faith communities.


Open discussions are the heart of any effort to reduce stigma and discrimination. NINERELA+ has organized numerous congregational dialogues specifically designed to tackle the issues of HIV stigma and Gender Based Violence (GBV). These dialogues provide safe spaces for community members to share their experiences and concerns openly. NINERELA+ fosters an environment of inclusivity and acceptance, making faith communities an integral part of the solution.


Beyond education and dialogue, NINERELA+ has been at the forefront of advocacy efforts. One significant achievement is the removal of stigmatizing and discriminatory practices within faith institutions. One such practice was the demand for HIV tests as a condition for church weddings. By championing this cause, NINERELA+ has played a pivotal role in making faith institutions more accepting and supportive, thereby eliminating a significant barrier to people’s happiness and well-being.


In some communities, faith healing practices can be a barrier to accessing proper medical care for HIV. NINERELA+ has adopted a unique approach to address this issue through interactive radio programmes. These programmes serve as platforms for faith leaders, healthcare experts, and community members to discuss the importance of medical treatment and dispel misconceptions related to faith healing. The programmes have opened channels for education, understanding, and healing. These innovations are examples of how faith-based organizations can transform the landscape of HIV response through their exalted platforms.

The transformative actions of NINERELA+ remind us that faith and science can work hand in hand to bring about positive change. As we look ahead, it is organizations like NINERELA+ that inspire change agents to keep pushing for a world free from HIV stigma and discrimination. Their efforts not only change lives but also change the narrative, demonstrating that faith communities can be powerful allies in the battle against HIV. Together, we can build a more inclusive and compassionate society where no one is left behind.