Archdeacon Andrea Ngong was diagnosed HIV- positive in 2010 and now leads the Anglican Church’s HIV programme in Wau diocese, South Sudan.
Archdeacon Andrea Ngong is an expert on HIV and AIDS. For the past four years, he has been living openly and positively with HIV. He understands, from personal experience, all the challenges which a person living with HIV faces. These are especially acute in South Sudan, where the services and support available to a person living with HIV are limited and HIV-related stigma and discrimination still run high.
When Archdeacon Andrea tested HIV-positive, the doctor told him not to tell anyone else. It seemed like good advice. As a senior member of the clergy in the Anglican diocese of Wau, South Sudan, he was supposed to uphold the highest principles of ethical behaviour. If his HIV-positive status became public knowledge, he would probably be accused of sexual immorality and his job could be on the line. He spent weeks agonising over what to do.
Then came the evening when everything changed. He was staying at the home of Bishop Moses Deng in Wau. The bishop set up a bed for him in his personal library. Browsing through the shelves, he came across a book entitled Positive Voices, which consisted of personal testimonies by African and Christian and Muslim leaders who were themselves living with or personally affected by HIV.
“I was touched by that book,” he recalls, “because it had personal stories by religious leaders who confessed that they were HIV-positive. I knew I was HIV-positive but I hadn’t told anyone else. I was afraid my bishop would dismiss me.”
At 4 o’clock in the morning, he knocked on the door of the bishop’s bedroom and began to pour out his story. Bishop Deng recalls:
“I thanked him for trusting me so much with this information. But I also told him that HIV is no longer a death sentence. He shouldn’t worry about dying of HIV but should live positively with it.”
Bishop Deng then appointed Archdeacon Ngong director of the Anglican Church’s HIV programme in his diocese. The programme has virtually no funds or other material resources, but Bishop Deng is optimistic:
“The churches are the most widespread and sustainable social asset in South Sudan. We can take the lead in working against the stigma attached to HIV, which is a major factor in the spread of the virus.”
Archdeacon Ngong has since worked tirelessly, despite daunting financial constraints and logistical obstacles, to spread a message of hope and openness in the face of the HIV epidemic in Wau diocese, which covers an area of 125,000 square kilometres and has a population of 2 million. The STRATEGIES FOR HOPE Trust has supplied him with copies of the CALLED TO CARE workbooks and the film, What can I do?, which he uses in his training activities. Unfortunately, none of these materials are yet available in the two main local languages, Dinka Rek and Arabic.
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