Religious Leaders Discuss How to Combat HIV/AIDS

October 28, 2008

Author: Tania Tabar

Source: The Daily Star

In what was not long ago considered an impossible task, Lebanese religious leaders are publicly addressing the often stigmatized issue of HIV/AIDS in the region. A three-day conference began on Monday in Beirut, where a steering committee of religious leaders from all faiths in Lebanon is hosting interactive workshops for other prominent members of religious communities in an effort to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.

More than 60 people attended Monday's event, which was organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in coordination with the Public Health Ministry.

UNDP resident representative Martha Ruedas said in a statement read by country director Seifeldin Abbaro that the event marked the first time in the Arab region that religious leaders are being trained on the issue of HIV/AIDS.

"Until now the Arab world had not addressed the issue of HIV/AIDS with enough energy, because people were too scared or not sufficiently informed to discuss the disease," she said, adding that things are beginning to change.

So far 700 religious leaders have been trained in HIV/AIDS awareness through the Religious Leaders Initiative, which is just one of several regional initiatives run by UNDP.