From its very beginnings, ACET DR Congo has challenged erroneous cultural beliefs about health and wellbeing, by working with church leadership to educate their huge congregations, and to reach out to and care for those living with HIV and AIDS with love and compassion, rather than condemnation and judgement.
Hit hard by HIV and then Ebola, DRC is no stranger to the fear, stigma, discrimination, and even violence, caused by misinformation about a virus. COVID-19 is no different. ACET DRC has continued partnering with churches to educate the public and to care for the vulnerable.
A deluge of misinformation about COVID-19 has circulated on social media and even on mainstream news in DRC. Ignorance about the virus has also originated in the pulpit, as some misinformed pastors have inflamed the situation with statements such as, “churches should stay open so as not to give Satan the victory” and “it is a Chinese disease, only the rich who travel can get it.” These kinds of statements are reminiscent of when HIV and Ebola took hold of DRC.
Many of the most vulnerable people, such as those living with HIV, are anxious or depressed, which can affect their immune response. Many are too paralyzed with fear or confusion to ask for help.
ACET DRC is working with their long-time partner Eglise du Christ au Congo - a Church network of 109 denominations with 45 million members – to equip volunteers to provide facts-based education, training and care for those who are vulnerable and at risk of infection - and to fight stigma, discrimination, inaction, and misinformation.
Activities have included training church leaders on COVID-19 facts and prevention; providing information through church radio stations with an audience of more than 12 million; educating communities about hygiene; equipping community health stations with protection supplies; distributing food; and providing spiritual, psychosocial and material support to those who are most in need.