Buddhist leadership joins fight against HIV/AIDS

Vietnam News, Oct 27, 2008

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam -- More than 100 Buddhist dignitaries from 40 provinces and cities nationwide gathered in HCM City last Friday for a conference on the Buddhist Leadership Initiative, convened by the Viet Nam Fatherland Front.

The Buddhist Leadership Initiative is a co-operative programme between the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and five Asian governments to promote the role played by religious leaders in their community’s response to HIV prevention.

The policy has been implemented in 10 pagodas across Viet Nam since 2002. It is included in the Viet Nam Buddhist Sangha’s programme of action and has received warm response from Buddhist dignitaries, monks, nuns and followers nationwide. The 10 pagodas in Ha Noi, HCM City, Da Nang City, Thua Thien-Hue and Tra Vinh provinces have become shelters for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, particularly orphans.

Most Venerable Thien Chieu from the Ky Quang pagoda said one of the most important achievements of the programme was the dissemination of information about the prevention of HIV/AIDS to Buddhist follower.

This attracted the support of a more educated population and helping reduce discrimination through education.

Buddhist clerics have recommended preventive measures for HIV during their Dharma talks with HIV-positive people and their families.

Clerics have also helped those infected with HIV to find jobs, obtain medical care and have provided education for a number of disadvantaged children.

Through the programme, pagodas have provided counseling services to thousands of people, established 40 training courses for Buddhist clerics and followers, provided assistance to over 1,000 orphans, given medical treatment to almost 10,000 drug addicts and hosted exchanges to help former addicts integrate into the community.

The dignitaries at the conference discussed concrete measures to promote the role of Buddhists in HIV/AIDS prevention.

They also suggested expanding the programme to other localities and improving communication in order to raise public awareness and involvement.