Asia-Pacific Called To Fight HIV-Associated Stigma

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UNICEF this week at the Inter-Faith Consultation onChildren and HIV Conference in Thailandcalled on religious leaders in the Asia-Pacific region to fight stigma anddiscrimination associated with HIV/AIDS among children, Thailand's Nation reports.

UNICEF regional adviser Wing-Sie Cheng said that many HIV-positive children inthe region had been denied access to basic services, shunned by communities andforced to live in isolation. She added that religious organizations should workto combat HIV-associated discrimination by encouraging communities to respect"principles of compassion, leadership and moral responsibility."Religious groups have the "potential to do much more in reducing"stigma and discrimination, Wing-Sie said, adding they also could work toincrease HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention activities.


Asian Interfaith Network on HIV/AIDS Chair Pramaha Boonchuay Doojaiadded that religious groups should help communities understand HIV/AIDS andhelp people living with the disease. "People with HIV can spend their lifein communities peacefully if religious organization[s] help them to eliminatestigmatization," he said. Lawrence Maund, program director for thefaith-based group Sangha Metta, added that his group should expand programsfocusing on HIV education and prevention.

About 15,000 people from 10 religious organizations in the Asia-Pacific regionare attending the three-day conference, which began on Tuesday. Attendees areexpected to discuss their experiences with HIV/AIDS, identify challenges inaddressing the disease and build networks in an effort to better serve peopleliving with HIV/AIDS, the Nation reports (Pongphon, Nation,1/16).

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