Towards gender-sensitive theological responses to HIV and AIDS : a critical study of the HIV and AIDS policy and programmes of the Northern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.
Beginning with the assumption that HIV and AIDS is a “gendered pandemic,” and that the church is central to the lives of many people in Africa, particularly Tanzania, this study sought to assess the HIV and AIDS intervention programmes of the church. The study used the HIV and AIDS programmes and policy of the Northern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania as a case study, and the central question of this study was: “To what extent have the theological beliefs which under-gird the HIV and AIDS policy and programmes encouraged these programmes to adequately respond to the gender challenges posed by the pandemic?” The hypothesis of this study was that the HIV and AIDS programmes of the ELCT Northern Diocese have not responded adequately to the gender challenges posed by the pandemic among its church members, and that therefore a more gender-sensitive theological response is needed. As such the objectives of this study were: To describe and analyze the HIV and AIDS policy and programmes of the ELCT Northern Diocese; To investigate whether the HIV and AIDS programmes are gender sensitive; To examine to what extent the theological beliefs under-girding the HIV and AIDS programmes and policy encourage gender sensitivity in these programmes; To develop theologies that encourage a more gender sensitive response to HIV and AIDS. The data for the study was collected through in-depth interviews, participant observation, case studies and documentary sources such as primary health education programme annual reports and policy document. From sketching the context of the HIV and AIDS pandemic in Tanzania in general, the study proceeds to describe and analyze the prevailing HIV and AIDS programmes of the ELCT Northern Diocese, which range from HIV and AIDS education awareness, to the provision of medical care, physical and spiritual care. It then assesses the theological beliefs underpinning the diocese‟s HIV and AIDS programmes/policy, and examines how the Lutheran Church understands and involves itself in the mission of God, pointing to a way forward in this regard by underlining Luther‟s practical response to the bubonic plague in relation to HIV and AIDS programmes. Three theoretical frameworks of analysis were used to assist in the analysis of the data collected. These were: a) the gendered conceptual framework for assessing HIV and AIDS interventions as pioneered by Geeta Rao Gupta; b) Luther‟s theologies of suffering, healing and gender; c) African feminist cultural hermeneutics as pioneered by Musimbi Kanyoro. The study concludes that as long as the church does not consider the gender nature of HIV and AIDS, its efforts to overcome the pandemic will bear little fruit.