Thai Conference Highlights HIV/AIDS Crisis

BANGKOK, Thailand, SEPT. 15, 2003 (ZENIT.orgFides).- A recent meeting of Christians, Buddhists and Muslims concluded that religious communities can do a lot to prevent the spread of AIDS in Asia.

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The local Catholic Church was represented by members of the Thai bishops’ Commission for the Pastoral Care of Health Workers and the Sick. Participants also included Buddhist monks and Muslim ulema.

Lectures were given by experts in various fields, who illustrated plans and programs for halting the spread of the HIV virus.

According to figures issued by the Thai Health Ministry, the country as of May had 217,000 HIV-positive people, of whom about 60,000 die every year, leaving some 300,000 orphans. HIV/AIDS spreads in Thailand due to widespread prostitution, sex tourism and the sexual exploitation of children.

Participants agreed that religious communities can help by showing compassion and assisting the sick and also in a preventative sense, by encouraging moral behavior, fostering respect for human dignity, and teaching young people about chastity.

During the two-day meeting, a Buddhist monk spoke about the center for AIDS patients he opened next to his temple; a group of Protestants talked about a course given to schoolchildren; and Catholic representatives spoke of the AIDS prevention campaign, launched in 1991, which is having success in all 10 Thai dioceses.

Of Thailand’s 64 million people, 90% are Buddhist, 5% Muslim, and 1% Christian.

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