Church and HIV/AIDS
Interreligious Conference on Interaction of Religious Communities in Russia in the Field of HIV/AIDS
The Interreligious Conference on Interaction of Religious Communities in Russia in the Area of HIV/AIDS took place on November 18-19 in Moscow. It was attended by some 200 people including leaders of religious communities in Russia and people engaged in practical work for opposing the spreading of HIV.
On November 18, the conference was addressed by representatives of governmental and public organizations, leaders of religious communities, representatives of associations of people living with HIV/AIDS and theologians from various confessions.
On November 19, the conference heard representatives of international organizations and then worked in four round tables dealing with the experience of religious organizations in HIV/AIDS primary prevention, in palliative care to people living with HIV and AIDS, in spiritual and psychological support for HIV-positive people and with the experience of interreligious and inter-confession cooperation in the area of HIV/AIDS.
The final document of the Conference was adopted as a result of a two-day discussion on a wide range of problems involved in cooperation between religious communities, governmental structures and public organizations in combating the spreading of HIV and AIDS and in complex aid to be given to people living with HIV.
"Interaction of Religious Communities in Russia in the Field of HIV/AIDS"
November 19, 2008, Moscow
We, participants in the Interreligious Conference on Interaction of Religious Communities in Russia in the Field of HIV/AIDS, have considered a wide range of problems involved in cooperation between religious communities, state and public organizations in combating the spreading of HIV/AIDS and helping people living with HIV.
Our discussion has led us to the following conclusions:
- The spreading of HIV/AIDS in Russia has resulted in a very dangerous situation that requires continued attention and serious and coordinated actions by the state, religious organizations and all the responsible forces in society.
- Russian governmental bodies have undertaken considerable measures to tackle the problem of HIV/AIDS and to provide people living with HIV with treatment, rehabilitation and social adaptation. Public healthcare bodies have done much in the efforts to prevent the disease.
- At the same time, it should be noted that the efforts made by the state and society are insufficient primarily because they do not take into account all the problems involved in the spreading of HIV infection in Russia and in the arrangement of effective aid to people living with HIV.
- The principal cause of the spreading of HIV in Russia, just as throughout the world, is rooted in the spiritual and moral condition of society. The strongest impact on the spreading of HIV has been made by such factors as lost value guidelines, eroded moral traditions, spiritual impoverishment, absence of ethical education for younger generations, social alienation, propaganda of vice in the mass media.
- The efforts to overcome the spreading of HIV will fail if they are made only through sanitary and medical preventive means. Simplified patterns of sexual education have also proved ineffective and sometimes even harmful, especially if they are viewed as an exclusive means of educating young people for the prevention of HIV infection.
- The major element in combating the spreading of HIV infection should lie in purposeful efforts to foster spiritual and moral norms in society to be realized through education and formation.
- Special attention in this connection should be given to the education of children for respect of family values and traditions, responsible attitude to sexual relations, rejection of high-risk behaviour such as use of drugs, for public spirit and service, wedded love and faithfulness, charity and compassion.
- Religious communities in Russia, which have served their people for centuries and become an important part of civil society today, can and must make their own contribution in these efforts.
- To make the combat with the spreading of HIV/AIDS effective it is essential that religious organizations, the state and society should enter into social partnership.
- It is necessary to develop cooperation between religious organizations with one another and with the state and society in the moral education and formation of children and youth, to step up educational work for the prevention of HIV infection among children and teenagers, to introduce together with public and state organizations educational and training programs for prevention of HIV infection. In doing so, these bodies should take into account ethnic and cultural traditions.
- The mass media, especially television and the Internet, should become an important tool in combating the spreading of HIV infection. However, information campaigns for the prevention of HIV infection and high-risk behaviour cannot be effective if they remain outside ethical norms.
- Religious communities consider it possible to maintain cooperation with governmental and non-governmental organizations in programs that do not contradict the fundamental spiritual, moral and family values.
- Religious communities in Russia point to the need for a complex approach to the aid given to people living with HIV. This approach includes not only medical, psychological and social but also spiritual support.
- Major areas in the work of religious communities for preventing the spreading of HIV infection and for taking care of people living with HIV should include:
Participants in the conference point to the need for cooperation between religious communities in Russia and associations of people living with HIV in developing and implementing their HIV/AIDS combat programs.
The participants appeal to the state and society to enter into proactive cooperation with religious organizations in opposing the spreading of HIV infection.
The participants have agreed on the need to set up a joint committee for coordinating efforts of religious organizations in the task of opposing the spreading of HIV infection and providing assistance to people living with HIV.
The participants consider it necessary to approach the Interreligious Council of Russia with the following proposals:
- prayer for people living with HIV and their families and giving them spiritual and other necessary support;
- religious and moral education of children and youth through introducing prevention programs based on traditional moral values;
- support for local projects to set up counseling services and hot-lines on HIV/AIDS problems;
- promoting social rehabilitation and protection of the rights of people living with HIV;
- legal advise for the HIV-positive and their families; psychological support for people living with HIV to be given in medical institutions, hospitals, clinics, maternity houses, penitentiaries, etc. and to their families.
- providing care for orphans born from HIV-infected mothers and their full social integration;
- home-nursing and care for the HIV-positive including those in the terminal stage;
- work in penitentiaries including that with HIV-infected inmates;
- creating television and radio programs and public service advertisements for propagating the healthy way of life and responsible behaviour and helping to overcome stigma and discrimination;
- conducting educational courses on HIV problems and ways of work with people living with HIV for clergy and laity of religious communities;
- promoting and fostering the volunteer movement concerned with aid to people living with HIV;
- elaborating rehabilitation programs for people using drugs and the HIV-infected people;
- elaborating programs for prevention of human trafficking as a way of spreading HIV.
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- To consider a possibility for making an appeal to the Russian Federation governmental bodies, the CIS leaders and the Russian Federation Public Chamber to provide grants to religious organizations for their socially significant work for preventing the spreading of HIV infection and taking care of people living with HIV.
- To consider a possibility for approaching the leaders of religious communities in Russia with a proposal to sign a joint declaration on their common vision of ways to oppose the spreading of HIV infection, to help people living with HIV and to consolidate the spiritual and moral foundations of society.