Asian group discusses ‘building HIV-competent churches’
Looking toward World AIDS day on 1 December, an Asian Christian grouping is holding a four-day seminar in Thailand from November 29 to December 3 on the subject “Building HIV-Competent Churches.”
“For the first time, the seminar … is organised and led by a pastor living with HIV, Pastor Ponsawan Khankaew, who herself experienced stigma and discrimination from her own family, church and circle of friends when she was first diagnosed with HIV 14 years ago,” Erlinda N. Senturias, consultant on HIV and AIDS of the Chiang Mai-based Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), told ENInews in an e-mail.
Khankaew is pastor of Adonai Church in Pattaya, the site of the conference, which is southeast of Bangkok. She runs homes for people living with HIV and is recognised by the Church of Christ in Thailand AIDS ministry.
The other organisers are the Glory Hut Foundation and Baan Jing Jia Foundation in Thailand. “Both organisations are active in serving the needs of PLHIV+ [people living with HIV] for shelter, nutrition, food, and other support and caring ministries making sure that they overcome their own self-stigma and overcome the discrimination from churches,” Senturias explained.
The CCA’s “Building HIV-Competent Churches” program will also be held within the next two years in Myanmar, Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos.
“The aim of the program is to make the churches aware of HIV and AIDS and to make them competent in dealing with discrimination and stigma and other issues that contribute to new HIV infections and AIDS- related death,” said Sentuiras.
In an August report, UNAIDS, a joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS, reported that stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV remain widespread in Asia and the Pacific.
“Three decades into the epidemic, Thai society still does not accept people living with HIV and AIDS,” Senturias said. “It is therefore important to equip faith communities with different approaches in sharing knowledge, attitude and skills that will enable [people living with HIV] to live with dignity as people created in the image of God.”
By Hisashi Yukimoto, Ecumenical News International