The importance of involving cultural and religious leaders in the national response to HIV and AIDS is a key factor in the National Response to HIV/AIDS and it is from this premise that the Office of the First Ladies of Africa against AIDS (OAFLA), the Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC), Kampala Capital City Authority, together with the Ministry of Health and other partners organized the Dialogue of Cultural and Religious Leaders on the National Response to HIV/AIDS, which was held on 14th November 2013 as a pre-cursor to the Kampala City EMTCT Campaign.
Cultural and religious leaders are very influential persons in the lives of the majority of Ugandans and thus a formidable force in the battle against HIV/AIDS. They are also an effective communication channel for carrying messages on HIV/AIDS to the majority of Ugandans, right to the family level. Consequently, the Dialogue focused on the key role cultural and religious leaders should play in reaching Ugandans with information and messages on the prevention of HIV/AIDS and the need to promote virtual EMTCT.
The aim of the Dialogue was to share the challenge of HIV and AIDS with the cultural and religious leaders and the need for them to play an active role in influencing behavioral change. It also brought to the forefront the importance of addressing the issue of discrimination and stigma amongst congregations and communities.
The Dialogue was a great success. It provided space for the participants to interface with key stakeholders who provide leadership to the National Response on HIV and AIDS. Discussions were held and issues raised in regard to the role the cultural and religious leaders should play in advocating for public response to interventions to promote EMTCT, the importance of providing information and guidance on issues of HIV/AIDS and behavioral change as well as the need for these leaders to create awareness about the dangers of stigma with regards to those infected and affected by the AIDS scourge.