Religious and traditional leaders have been called on to embrace minority groups in the country to enhance tolerance and ensure that all inclusive HIV interventions are realised.
Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV (Manerela+) acting national coordinator Bruce Tushabe made the remarks on Wednesday in Mzuzu during an interface meeting with religious leaders and the minority groups.
Research in Malawi on men who have sex with men (MSM), lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) indicates that these minority groups are discriminated against and are not given an opportunity to hold positions.
A study conducted in 2012 by Centre for the Development of People
(Cedep), the College of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University reveals that 96.7 percent of traditional leaders and 87.3 percent of religious leaders are against MSM and LGBTI’s holding leadership positions.
Tushabe said these findings are a cause for concern because stigma and discrimination against the minority groups is frustrating efforts to fight HIV and Aids.
“This is a big challenge in HIV mitigation because the minority community does not come in the open to access health services. This is why we do these meetings to have increased dialogue and have a holistic approach to HIV intervention.
“We involve religious and traditional leaders because they play a vital role in shaping society values, attitudes and people’s behaviour,” he said.