Asian interfaith actions proposed an interfaith consultation on strengthening HIV and AIDS Advocacy in Asia.
The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) organized a regional consultation to intensify interfaith HIV and AIDS advocacy collaborations in Asia at CHIANG MAI, Thailand, on January 31, 2020. Twenty-five participants representing different faith-based organizations (FBOs) and religions from Asia and networks of People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV) attended the consultation.
“In its efforts to strengthen HIV and AIDS advocacy, the CCA is committed to accompanying all member constituencies and beyond, and thus the CCA is committed to facilitating the creation of interfaith and civil society networks by providing a common platform. It is to strengthen advocacy efforts to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS in Asia,” added the CCA General Secretary.
Venerable Phramaha Boonchuay Doojai, the Chairperson of AINA, said that he was grateful for this timely support of CCA. “Most people prefer not to engage in conversations around HIV and AIDS because of the discomfort and stigma surrounding it. An Interfaith consultation such as this sets a positive precedent and invites other Asian faith communities and networks to work in this space,” said Venerable Boonchuay, who is a prominent Buddhist monk committed to promoting interfaith collaborative actions to combat HIV and AIDS.
Elucidating the Buddhist perspective, Venerable Boonchuay spoke of maha karuna, or ‘great compassion. “Whoever desires to serve the Buddha should first desire to serve sick persons,” he explained. He provided numerous examples of the work of Buddhist monks in responding to HIV and AIDS in Thailand. He reported that their work reduced infection rates, stigma, and discrimination, thus impacting Thai society directly and indirectly.
The Islamic perspective was shared by Siti Suginai, a young woman representing the Komisi Penanggulangan AIDS (KPA) in Indonesia. Dr. Ronald Lalthanmawia, Coordinator of ATCHAA, spoke on the Christian perspective and emphasized the need to stop considering HIV-AIDS as an issue of morality or sin. Instead, he called for developing an inclusive theology grounded in compassion, care, and support.
Sessions to share best practices and challenges saw participants make grounded, contextual, personalized, and pointed presentations for beneficial cross-learning between the countries represented. For example, Khawn Taung, the General Secretary of the Myanmar Interfaith Network on AIDS (MINA), shared the journey of MINA and spoke of how different faith communities had put aside their differences and collaboratively worked on issues.
Sujan Thapa, the President of the National Association of People Living with HIV in Nepal (NAP+N), informed participants about their work addressing HIV and AIDS. PLHIV in Nepal has secured health insurance for care and treatment due to the organization’s advocacy initiatives. The participants evaluated their organizations and institutions through an Assessment Framework which enabled them to determine their contributions in addressing HIV and AIDS.