Testing Faith Interview with Christabel Kunda

Christabel Kunda

6th December 2018

In light of World Aids Day last week,Sharon Platt-McDonald, British Union Conference (BUC) Director for Health, Women's Ministries and Adventist Community Services talks to Christabel Kunda, HIV Support Services Manager and Testing Faith Lead.

Sharon is committed to working in partnership with this organisation and will be augmenting her work with them in 2019 as part of the BUC Health Ministries Sexual Health Strategy which will be officially launched.

Sharon – I just wanted to register how pleased I am to be working in partnership with your organisation in collaboration with our Health Ministries department at the British Union Conference.

Christabel, you head up a programme entitled 'Testing Faith'. Please share with our readers what this is about?

Christabel ‒ Testing Faith is an approach designed to engage leaders from the faith community in HIV prevention. For example, we do a lot of work with Christian and Muslim communities and with leaders in mosques and churches around London to help them understand that HIV is not something that happens to other people; it's a condition that any of us can acquire.

The aim of the course is to create a step change in the way faith communities from Black-led congregations understand, respond to and promote information about HIV. It also cements the knowledge that HIV is a manageable condition which can be prevented. Testing Faith provides faith leaders with an opportunity to become part of the HIV care continuum through their own programmes – by folding in HIV prevention and awareness into programmes they may already have running, for example, or deciding to set aside time and space for regular testing. Testing Faith has three distinctive elements and has been developed with support from the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH).

Sharon – You mentioned the course having 3 parts to it. Can you give an outline of what each segment entails?

Christabel – Yes. Part one is the learning. Over the course of one day, faith leaders review the epidemiology of HIV within Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and the effects of late diagnosis to individuals and the NHS. They learn Treatment as Prevention and examine the role of prayer working together with medication as an approach for well-being.

Part two is the thinking. Faith leaders have the opportunity to meet people living with HIV and through role-play examine the role of stigma and faith institutions in challenging stigma. Faith leaders are supported to create a simple sexual health plan which will ensure there is at least an annual calendar event to promote HIV testing. They are supported by the staff of NAZ_Logo_Strap_colNAZ – Sexual Health for Everyone.

Part three is the doing. To complete the course, faith leaders create an event to test for HIV or refer people from their congregation for an HIV test through a coordinated referral to the local GUM (Genitourinary medicine) clinics.

Sharon – That sounds very interesting. We are looking forward to engaging our members in this training over 2019. Testing Faith is a programme which is an aspect of a larger organisation called NAZ. Please share with our readers what NAZ is all about.

Christabel ‒ NAZ exists in order to provide a range of sexual health services and programmes specifically for people from BAME communities that are: culturally specific, driven from within the community, and using an integrated approach which draws on the BAME experience of race, culture, religion, and sexuality.

Sharon ‒ Can you outline some specifics about why education in this area is important?

Christabel ‒ BAME are disproportionately affected by HIV. So, while we make up approximately 13% of the UK population, we account for 47% of all new HIV diagnoses. We remain the group most affected by HIV compared with other ethnic groups. There continues to be a steady increase in Asian and Latin American acquisition of HIV, too, and so our work looks across the community to understand what affects one of us affects all of us in some way or other.

Sharon – Research indicates that individuals from BAME communities tend to have late diagnosis which obviously affects their health outcomes. Are there any additional reasons to address this disproportionate representation in regard to poor sexual health?

Christabel ‒ What's clear is that it is increasingly important to understand the role that Whole Person Care can play in improving life outcomes for people diagnosed with HIV. Whole Person Care asks us to create a holistic approach to HIV and healthcare that takes into account the whole person and which goes beyond dispensing medicine. If someone is suffering from depression, perhaps as a result of their HIV status, then we also need to refer them to someone who can help with that. If they are having trouble finding gainful employment, can we help there?

Sharon – Can you expand a bit more on how you work?

Christabel ‒We work across four areas: HIV support services for people living with HIV, sexual health promotion, clinical services, and influencing research and policy.

At the heart of all our work is a passion and drive to not only redress sexual health inequalities but enable all people from BAME communities to enjoy positive sexual health. One of the ways we do this most effectively is by recruiting people from the communities we seek to impact to come up with and deliver programmes that actually work.

Sharon – Thank you so much Christabel. We look forward to our working together to bring this aspect of health and well-being to our membership.

[Sharon Platt-McDonald, BUC Director for Health, Women's Ministries and Adventist Community Services.]

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