South Asian Religious Leaders Establish Multi-Faith Council To Combat HIV/AIDS
Religious leaders in South Asia announced Thursday at the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, that they have established the South Asia Inter-Religious Council on HIV/AIDS to combat the epidemic in the region, the OutlookIndia.com reports. The council will include representatives from the Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain and Baha'i faiths, according to Akhraul Wasey, interim convener of the council (OutlookIndia.com, 7/15). Wasey added that representatives of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will join the council, which is supported by the United Nations Children's Fund. "[S]piritual leaders are uniquely placed to provide comfort and guidance to those affected by the disease," Dr. Sadia Rasheed, UNICEF regional director for South Asia, said, adding, "Their examples can help end the stigma and discrimination that perpetuate HIV/AIDS" (Press Trust of India, 7/15). The council will facilitate interaction between governments and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and carry out inter-religious advocacy efforts, Wasey said (OutlookIndia.com, 7/15). Under the council's program, religious officials also will provide counseling, information and moral support to young people in their communities (Press Trust of India, 7/15). Almost half of all new HIV infections are among people ages 15 to 24, according to the 2004 UNAIDS Report of the Global AIDS Epidemic (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/6). HIV/AIDS experts in South Asia say that young people lack basic knowledge about HIV/AIDS and sexual health, the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 7/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.