Baha'i News -- Religious leaders in Aids talks

Religious leaders in Aids talks

Religions and beliefs as diverse as Tamil, Hindu, the ZCC (Zionist Christian Church), Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, African Independent Churches, Church of Nazareth (Shembe), Telegu, Baha'i and six different Christian denominations are participating in the workshop.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang told the workshop that government had to consolidate its partnerships with the other relevant sectors such as the church in order to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

She said the face of HIV/Aids in South Africa had become more complex over the past 10 years.

"We are no longer dealing with information and awareness, but with people that are faced with the reality of living with the disease. The vast majority are of them are undiagnosed. They do not know their HIV status."

Tshabalala-Msimang said every citizen had a unique role to play in combating HIV and caring for those living with the disease.

She said the church could play a major role in fighting the stigma that was associated with HIV/Aids.

This they could do through prevention education, advocacy campaigns against discrimination, establishing a national day of prayer for all people affected by Aids and the provision of home-based care for the ill.

"Being positioned firmly within and linked directly to both infected and affected communities affords the faith-based organisations the opportunity to tackle many of the intricate issues carried in the wake of HIV/Aids.

"The challenge now lies in strengthening this sector's existing HIV/Aids activities, enhancing faith-based structures focusing on HIV/Aids and ensuring that each community of faith finds its own place along the continuum of HIV/Aids care," Tshabalala-Msimang said.

Faith-based organisations were one of the sectors represented in the Partnership Against Aids.

The partnership also incorporates government representatives, the media, disabled groups, people living with Aids, labour unions, celebrities, business, NGOs, women, youth, traditional leaders and healers, human rights organisations as well as the sport and hospitality industries.

Last year a number of similar workshops were held across the country to strengthen the role of provincial faith-based leaders.

The national indaba which ends in Durban on Wednesday was organised by the Department of Health, the Government Aids Action Plan and USAid.

The delegates will look at current responses by religious leaders to HIV/Aids and explore key challenges facing them.

©Copyright 2002, South African Press Association

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