From left to right: Ms Poh Siew Lin, Mr Sovann Son, Mr Michael Mahinay, Mr Hewa Lakshman
Bangkok, Thailand: While sharing best practices and challenges in responding to the HIV and AIDS pandemic, leaders of the Interfaith Network on AIDS spoke about the strengths of their work, which included mutual understanding and respect among religious leaders, a sustained network, coordination, and education campaigns on HIV and AIDS awareness, and the establishment of shelters for affected people that are supported by faith leaders and their communities.
Khwan Taung from the Myanmar Council of Churches’ HIV and AIDS Prevention Care described the interfaith initiatives in Myanmar effectively carried out by a committed group of faith-based organisations in the country.
Dr Alphinus Kambodji, the chairperson of the INTERNA (Indonesian Interfaith Network on HIV and AIDS), highlighted strategic efforts for combating the AIDS pandemic including strengthening commitment, expanding collaborations, embracing innovative approaches by incorporating young people’s talents and resources, and providing services that are accessible to all.
Sovann Son from the Salvation Centre in Cambodia informed the group that his organisation’s scope of work included nearly thirty years of collaboration with Buddhist monks on community-based HIV and AIDS response programmes. The training and empowerment of monks and monk peer educators for counselling programmes are part of the work.
Michael Jesus Mahinay, the executive director of Alagad, based in Davao City in the Philippines, highlighted direct services and support, and the development of partnerships and networking among various sectors and stakeholders such as faith-based organisations based in various traditions.
Somasundaram Shiran Mahesh, a programme executive at the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka shared experiences of ministering to children living with HIV and AIDS.
The three-day Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS Conference has sessions and discussions that emphasise the importance of interfaith collaboration within communities in creating a harmonious environment that promotes inclusivity and acceptance and overcoming the major barrier of stigma, particularly in a diverse Asian context.
The Conference will end on 25 January 2023.