1.1 Background of the Study
Throughout human history, mankind has been plagued by several strange diseases and in such occurrences, hundreds and thousands die, and it continues even in this contemporary time. However, some of these diseases have been difficult to eradicate and no vaccine has been developed for it. One of such disease is HIV and AIDS.
Scientists first identified the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as the cause of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in 1983. Since then, the disease has spread relentlessly, causing one of the most devastating pandemics ever recorded in human history. According to the National Action on Control of AIDS (NACA, 2014) based on projected HIV estimates for 2014, about 3,391,546 are living with HIV in Nigeria, while it is estimated that 227, 518 new infections occurred in 2014 (male 103,917 and female 123,601). A total of 174,253 died from AIDS related cases in 2014. Here in Akwa Ibom State, according to NACA (2015), the prevalence rate of HIV infections stands at 6.5%. However, the first case of AIDS in Nigeria was reported in 1986, thus establishing the presence of the epidemic in the country. (National Action Control of AIDS, 2014, 2015)
According to United Nations Agency for AIDS (UNAID, 2002), HIV and AIDS have left a trail of destruction and affect all alike, knowing no boundaries, the virus does not discriminate between sex, race or creed, and has spread rapidly to every part of the globe. Abue in “HIV/AIDS in Africa” (2013:43) avers that the present dominant campaigns for the control of HIV and AIDS in Africa by the major communication media are focusing on “fear appeal” as pervasive messages describe to scare people by describing the terrible things that will happen to them if they do not do what the message recommends; such as “AIDS leads to death”. Yet still, this has no meaningful impact on the public as people are infected with the HIV virus on daily basics.
However, the church plays a critical role in the lives of many people throughout the world; faith in God, in humanity, in science, in love. It is our undying faith in whatever form it takes that brings us hope and gives us energy to carry on, and to believe that however dire our circumstances may be, the future can bring brighter times, healthier times, and happier times. According to (UNAIDS, 2008), Seventy per cent of the world’s population identify themselves as members of one faith community or another and such faith communities play a significant role in influencing people’s behaviors and attitudes. Church leadership has great influence in the lives of many people, and leaders speaking out responsibly about HIV/AIDS can and have made a powerful impact at both community and international levels. According to United Nations Agency for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS, 2008), the Pope and the Archbishop of South Africa, Desmond Tutu made calls for increased funding into the fight against the AIDS epidemic during the G8 Summit in 2008.
According to Green, (2003:33) opines that, Faith Based Organizations (FBO) in the field of HIV/AIDS have been providing care, support, and counseling for people living with HIV/AIDS including care for orphans, income generating activities for people living with HIV/AIDS and their dependents and a variety of HIV prevention activities.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
HIV/AIDS is a boundless disease, (that is, it is not peculiar to a particular geographical region). In Nigeria, it was discovered about 30 years ago, with an individual case, but presently, millions are now infected. However, it has become clear that it is more than a medical issue, which pervades all spheres of our lives be they social, economic, cultural. Therefore, it is more than an individual problem, for it affects families and the society in general.
In recent years the Catholic Church Ikot Ekpene Diocese has been caring in the education and prevention programmes and also caring for those living with HIV/AIDS virus. Yet the response of Churches has been inadequate and, in some cases, made the problem worse. That is, HIV is as a result of witchcraft manipulation in a person’s life, also some churches claim to heal those that are infected with the virus. Therefore, this increases the problem of HIV. A study conducted by May et al (2008: 23- 57) details the serious problems that arise from the spread of HIV/AIDS, which includes the following;
Those infected with HIV/AIDS are likely to face economic challenges.
Furthermore, that HIV affected households in are likely to face discrimination and stigmatization, compared to their negative counterparts.
Also, the likelihood of substantial income loses.
A study by Masser (2004:89) points out that there is increased burden on those who provide care, as well as higher out-of-pocket spending. Therefore those affected by the virus have to put up with discrimination and stigmatization; it hinders the prevention and treatment of HIV and hampers social support and HIV disclosure. Furthermore, according to Coombe (2002:63) the psychological stress that is a direct consequence of impact of HIV/AIDS on individuals and families can compromise school and work performance, family relationships, and the capacity to take care of children, and may also culminate in risk behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse and in unsafe sex behavior. Therefore the Diocese of Ikot Ekpene, plays a significant role in the fight against HIV. Most importantly those infected have been able to build up confidence in themselves because of the way and manner they are handled by priest and members of laity.
According to Essien (2012:67), AIDS is the most dreadful hazard that has threatened the whole human race. The Diocese of Ikot Ekpene Catholic Church maintains a zero stance on the use of condom and therefore advocates for marriage before sex. Despite this seemingly practical approach to dealing with these serious problems of sexuality and behavior change, and the use of ‘appropriate’ interventions, also including the sensitization programs that have been carried out through the mass media (electronic and print media, Facebook etc), yet still, not much success has been achieved in modeling people’s behavior in line with its objectives as most of them still engage in risky sexual behavior which is evidenced by the high number of teenage pregnancies and HIV/AIDS infection prevalence this is research findings from National Action On Control Of AIDS (NACA 2014). The concern is, if the general public is extensively informed about the fact of HIV/AIDS, then why do they continue to put themselves at risk? And why are people still getting infected? Isn’t the knowledge about HIV/AIDS itself not enough anymore!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church Traditions provide adequate framework for the Diocese of Ikot Ekpene, to serve God’s people that are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. The Catholic Church Ikot Ekpene Diocese, maintains a close connection with individuals, families and communities. Also pertinent to point out that its availability even in the remote areas (that is, parishes, health centres etc) has been of immense help in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Catholic Church Ikot Ekpene Diocese through Her HIV programmes is able to offer care and hope through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This thesis therefore,seeks to study the prevention of HIV/AIDS by the Catholic Church Ikot Ekpene Diocese.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is as follows:
To study how HIV/AIDS is viewed in some quarters, definitely gives reason for this study
To identify the nature and types of programmes and services relating to HIV prevention that is available in the Catholic Diocese of Ikot Ekpene.
There is the need to find out the level awareness campaigns carried out by the Church to clear out the negative minds of what HIV/AIDS are all about. This would be of great help to make the target of HIV/AIDS control more preventive.
To investigate the role played by a primary Christian denomination, in the prevention of HIV.
1.4 Research Methodology
According to Kothari (2004:6) research methodology is a way to systematically solve the research problem. The researcher will adopt various steps in acquiring the necessary data or information and it includes: library research, interviews, and seminars. Through interview the researcher will dig out information from the Administrators of Our Lady Health of the Sick Hospital, Ukana and St Mary’s Hospital Urua Akpan. This will help the researcher to find out the modus operandi of their work, world.
The researcher will make use of the Akwa Ibom State University (Obio Akpa) library, Samuel Bill theological college (Abak) library and the personal library of Dr. Bassey Ekeng. These will equip the research with the necessary and valuable information or data that is needed for this research.
Apart from making use of the library, the researcher will equip himself with more information or data by conducting oral interviews with administrators of health care facilities suchas Mercy Hospital Abak and Our Lady Health of the Sick Hospital, Ukana Iba, Essien Udim. Furthermore, Church leaders, students and some section of the general public (especially youths) on their views on HIV/AIDS. The main reason for this is to know how effective the HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention have on the society.
1.5 Scope of the Study
The researcher will base its research on the HIV/AIDS prevention by the church, that is, the Catholic Church, Ikot Ekpene Diocese. The Catholic Church, Ikot Ekpene Diocese comprises of the following Local Government Areas: Abak, EssienUdim, Etim-Ekpo, Ikot-Ekpene, Ini, Ika, Obot Akara, Ukanafun and Oruk Anam. These places are found in the North Eastern part of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Just like the purpose of study, the above reveals the importance and aims of the study. It brings to light the relevance of HIV/AIDS to the nature of man. In other words, how valuable is this study to mankind.
This study will challenge and bring to light the need to help build up the preventive approach system to HIV/AIDS. It also points-out how important the role of the church is, with the problems of HIV/AIDS.
The study has the potential to contribute to the body of knowledge on HIV/AIDS, more precisely to provide guidelines on the current and future roles of the Catholic Church, Ikot Ekpene Diocese in the prevention of HIV and AIDS.
This research can be of benefit to health professionals who could use the proposed guidelines as a basis to formulate HIV and AIDS prevention strategies relevant to the beliefs and values of the Catholic Church, Ikot Ekpene Diocese.