MANILA, Jan. 27, 2011â€”Roman Catholic bishops are now hitting the HIV/AIDS issue in their respective pastoral jurisdiction head-on.
On Thursday, several prelates simultaneously wore red ribbon pins as they pledged a proactive role in the fight against HIV/AIDS and put a stop to discrimination against living with the disease.
Steve Kraus, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific, met with the bishop and emphasized the role people of faith can play in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
â€œThe church has made remarkable things in all parts of the world and these include the years of prevention, treatment, support and care for the people living with HIV,â€ Kraus said.
â€œHere in the Philippines, itâ€™s crucial and logical that you work closely with the churchâ€¦ this is a good sign that we will intensify our collaboration and work even close together.â€
Kraus said the four-hour meeting at the Pope Pius XII Center in Manila this morning â€œwas significantâ€ and no debate on controversial issue such as condom use. â€œIt is more about acceptance of people infected or living with HIV,â€ Kraus said.
â€œThey reviewed the churchâ€™s teachings and the work that is already ongoing and looked for ways to strengthen and intensify their work on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support,â€ he said.
Kraus said itâ€™s high time to â€œspeak onâ€ about the epidemic because what drives the disease at present is â€œstigma and discrimination.â€
He said â€œconflictâ€ should be set aside and focus must be given on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and caring for the victims.
By promoting community solidarity, the UNAIDS official said, the church can prevent new HIV infections and ensure that those infected are treated with dignity and respect.
â€œWe have to welcome people living with HIV into our homes and into our parishes so that we can better understand their world and for them to understand our world,â€ Kraus said.
â€œWe can work together towards a supportive commitment towards life, dignity of human being and compassion to those who are living with HIV.â€
The church response to HIV/AIDS has sometimes been hindered by issues such as prevention methods, including condom use in a country where AIDS cases are on the rise.
â€œIn Asia and the Pacific there are 2 countries where weâ€™ve seen 25 percent increase in HIV new infections and one of those countries is the Philippines,â€ Kraus said.
Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said their coordination with the UNAIDS does not mean the church also encourages the use of condoms in combating the spread of the disease.
While the church, he said, considers that condom use would be morally justifiable in â€œcertain casesâ€, it is not the main solution to the â€œbehavioral problem.â€
â€œOur support is selective which means to say weâ€™ll help in raising awareness to the people, and address stigma and discrimination,â€ said Lagdameo, former president of the Catholic Bishopsâ€™ Conference of the Philippines.
â€œWe will not join in the promotion of condom use; it will just worsen the problem. It we want to address it, it should be a long term solution which is behavioral change.â€
Set aside conflict
Kraus said they respect the position of the bishops and refuted claims that the church is a hindrance to the campaign against HIV/AIDS.
â€œThe churchâ€™s method is clearâ€¦ it is important to treat people with dignity and respect,â€ he said. â€œIt is important to honor the conscience of every individual. Deep down, each person needs to review their own behavior and what can be done to prevent the infection.â€
â€œConflict doesnâ€™t bring about results. It will just make the virus win the game. The government, church and the civil societyâ€¦ we all have to work together and thereâ€™s so much that unites us and the challenges are enormous so we all have to stand together,â€ Kraus said.
The meeting was facilitated by the CBCPâ€™s National Secretariat for Social Action (Nassa) which is at the forefront of the churchâ€™s campaign against the HIV/AIDS.
Nassa chairman and Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said they worked to identify best practices to strengthen the voice and action of the church and bring collaboration with other sectors involved in response to problem.
Members of the CBCP are in Manila this week for their two-day plenary assembly that will start on Saturday, where they are going to discuss and come up with a common stand on current issues.
The bishopsâ€™ plenary assemblies are bi-annual meetings traditionally held in the months of January and July. Both are preceded with a three-day seminar (January) and an annual retreat (July).
About half of the 36 CBCP Commissions and offices are also expected to render their reports about their programs and activities during the year past. (CBCPNews)