Catholic leaders to come together to end HIV in Goa

first_imgFather Paul Alvares, head of the Conference of Religions of India – Goa Chapter, on Sunday said he would bring heads of various religious congregations together in an attempt to end the scourge of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the State by 2030.Leaders of the Catholic faith got together to discuss the response from the community to HIV in Goa on the sidelines of the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial on Sunday, organised by Human Touch Foundation (HTF) at Margao.“Religious leaders can have massive impacts within their communities in the fight against HIV. With their considerable presence and reach, the church can help shape government policies and advocate with the government for better access to healthcare,” said Peter F. Borges, Founder of HTF. “In addition, religious leaders can talk to and inform their own faith communities. The church is a powerful agent to change individual beliefs and values.” He called for faith leaders to set examples and shape attitudes about HIV.HTF is represented in the Global HIV Strategy Group and International Reference Group of Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, an initiative of the World Council of Churches, a global network of churches and related organisations committed to campaigning for justice and dignity.Explaining the HTF’s plans, Sr. Crina Cardozo said programmes would be aimed at reducing stigma and promoting HIV testing in Goa through the involvement of faith leaders in line with the campaign of World Council of Churches. She said faith leaders should demonstrate to the faith community that HIV does not need or deserve stigma. Further, she called on faith leaders to preach sermons about the importance of testing and treatment, in order to prevent discrimination within their communities.Narrating her experiences of addressing HIV during an outbreak, Sister Lourenca Marques said faith leaders have a key role to play in increasing access to HIV testing and treatment, breaking silence and stigma, promoting human rights and building bridges between people and communities.During the dialogue, participants addressed the realities of how stigma and discrimination are perpetuated both in religious communities and the larger society.An adolescent living with HIV also recounted her experience when she and her other friends were discriminated against and expelled from their school in 2014. She shared her challenges and called for an end to discrimination against children living with HIV.In their concluding statement, participants called for the “renewed sense of urgency” to prioritise and strengthen the response to HIV.They pledged to commit themselves to strengthened efforts to respond to HIV in Goa, which includes protecting human rights through collaboration and influencing local and national decision-making processes.last_img

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