Workshop highlights Church’s pastoral role in HIV-AIDS advocacy

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MAKATI City, August 23, 2012?An on-going workshop on HIV-AIDS sheds more light on the role the Church can play as a pastoral support for people infected with the virus.

“We still have a serious problem of stigma and rejection even by family members. Here the Church can play a very important role because many people in the Philippines have a closeness to the Catholic Church…so through our parishes we can reach out,” Msgr. Robert Vitillo, special adviser on HIV and AIDS for Caritas Internationalis and one of the main speakers for the training, said in an interview.

As seen through the discussions, the HIV-AIDS reality is not a purely medical or epidemiological reality but one that has root issues in poor family relations, poverty, sexual abuse or molestation, prostitution, etc.

One of the main speakers, Fr. Dan Cancino, director of the Episcopal Commission on Health Care programs on HIV-AIDS, stressed that pastoral care, counseling and unconditional acceptance are just some of the concrete ways the Church can support people living with HIV.

Other partners like the UNAIDS affirmed the potential of what the Church can do with its existing influence over many Filipinos.

During her report, Teresita Bagasao, UNAIDS Country Coordinator, appealed to the religious communities and faith-based organizations present to explore how they can help young people deal with confusion about sexual identity, as indirectly seen through the rise in HIV infections transmitted through ‘MSM’ or males having sex with males.

Bagasao stressed that these males do not necessarily classify themselves as homosexual.

According to Noel Palaypayon, R.N. of the National Epidemiology Center, there has been a 587% increase in HIV infections from 2007 to 2011.

Although the 9,669 reported cases of HIV in the country do not seem like a numerically significant number, it continues to be a pressing and urgent issue, Palaypayon said.

He also explained a distinct shift in the mode of transmissions, showing that a majority of HIV infections are no longer transmitted through heterosexual sex but through MSM.

The Philippine Catholic Network for HIV and AIDS (PhilCHAN) invited members of its 44-organization strong network to participate in the training for the religious.

Tomorrow, a similar workshop will be held for seminarians and lay leaders.  [Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz]

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