Human Question: 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok - 2
Duration: 00:33:16; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 325.134; Saturation: 0.095; Lightness: 0.424; Volume: 0.094; Cuts per Minute: 12.805; Words per Minute: 125.581
Summary: Tracing the story of the global struggle to make HIV/AIDS drugs more affordable and available, A Human Question raises key questions of whether private ownership of knowledge can be at the cost of human life?
Press Conference on Faith based groups and HIV/Aids
Our purpose in the last night meetings is continuing to wrestle with how best religious leaders and I think focussing on leadership in the faith communities, their unique role in working to reduce and eliminate stigma and discrimination. And part of that is acknowledging the reality that often they have been part of contributing as well in many ways to the problem of stigma. And wrestling with that reality but also with the fact that they often have been at the forefront of offering compassion and inclusion to those who are living with HIV and Aids. So I think that is the context for our conversation this afternoon. And with that its my pleasure to hand over to our first speaker Mary Robinson, currently is the executive director of Ethical Globalisation Initiative, Commissioner for Human Rights in the UN system and prior to that the President of the Republic of Ireland. She serviced as moderator for the last night's panel and Mary it's a pleasure to have you with us.
Discusses the importance of Religious Leaders in eliminating stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/Aids.
high commissioner for human rights
republic of ireland
stigma and discrimination
Mary Robinson-Thank you. Well, I was pleased to be invited to moderate the panel last night largely for the reasons which James ------- has laid out that its clear that there has been a lot of thought falling to participation by faith leaders. And at this Aids conference, they had a pre-conference separately first and then together and I think I had been looking forward to more dialogue than that actually happened at the session. Perhaps the problem with faith leaders is that they feel they have to set out initially the orthodox position from the particular faith. And so we didn't get as much opportunity as I'd hoped to tease out some of the issues. I thought the Bishop ---------- of Oslo gave an opening that unfortunately was not taken up, where he pointed out that ethical positions were taken by the Churches before some of the crisis of the pandamic of HIV and Aids had made itself more manifest. And he urged that there was a need to re-examine and re-look at ethical positions and I think, if we could have discussed that more fully it might have been a particularly interesting. He related it to the whole question of use of condoms and gave his own personal view that it was necessary not only to have an ethical basis but actually see the need in order to save life and to promote safe practice, to actually promote condoms. But we didn't get into that or rather deep issues and exchange which I think was something of a pity. But what we did analyse and --------- who is going to speak next was a part of that, was the reality of stigma and discrimination and the power of the churches or faith based groups to really give leadership in tackling stigma and discrimination. I think this was the most important issue that we discussed. Because of their influence in communities, influence in families, influence over women, in particular the very strong, powerful impact for the women of faith, of the leadership that comes. And therefore the importance of language and I think it was that issue of language that each religious faith must find and develop, a theological basis for a more compassionate response and a response that addresses the reality of HIV and Aids. So probably at this point and allow Gedien to take over.
Faith Based Groups
Introduction to the next speaker. ( name ), currently working as the faith based coordinator for World Vision International. He stands as the first African priest who openly declares HIV status 12 years ago in 19 92. And as ------ I would say a true prophet and leader among the faith communities in Africa and globally. And has grappled honestly and openly with this issue. He is also the chair of the African network of religious leaders living with who are personally affected by HIV aids. And has really been working to help those who are HIV positive within the leadership of their communities. In order to support and take forward their work together. So it is a pleasure to have u...
Black priest-I greet to u all with love from Uganda. I am told to speak on two concrete examples on how religious leaders are engaged in a fight against HIV aids and stigma. The first example that comes to my mind comes from my own bishop ---------------, who when I disclosed to him that I was HIV positive, first reacted of course with shock...but later on composed himself and prayed for me. And laid his hands on me and said 'u are from now onwards my own son. And u will eat what I will eat, and will sleep in the same house like I sleep in and I will personally look after u'. so for the last seven years before I transferred to the region I was staying in the bishop's house, being nursed by the bishop, I think if we are looking for models of how people can defeat stigma ----------------, I think bishop (name) has a story to tell the world and for the religious leaders. When I nearly died in 1998 bishop (name) wrote a later together with his wife (name) to the minister of health, which later served to put me on ARVs. I had lost 20 kilos of weight from 78 kilos to 58 kilos. The doctors had given me only 6 months to live. Now as I speak I am 74 kilos, and my virologies are undetectable, my ---------- count is over 700. All that coming from an effort of a religious leader. The second example I would want to talk about is the African network of religious leaders living with HIV aids. As u know people say HIV aids is got by people who are promiscuous, who are prostitutes, who are drug abusers and so forth. But these religious leaders have come in the picture to say what people are saying is inaccurate and inadequate. Because not everything that people consider unacceptable is unsafe. And not every root practice what culture or religion says is acceptable is safe. And these religious leaders who come together, to murder themselves as new hopes for change. If u would want to say new positive leadership on HIV aids. What did we do? We go in a country, we gather religious leaders who are HIV positive or who are presently affected, we give them a week retreat to give them skills on overcoming the stigma. When they go back they initiate and encourage congregation response that are compassionate, that are loving and caring. They also engage themselves in national level advocacy, like for eg, challenging simplistic statements like a b c, u have had many people talk about a b c as ----------------------- say no u r wrong about that. Many people who are abstained have -----------------, 61% of women who are living with HIV aids in Africa have never sex with more than one man. They are faithful, they are infected. People wont use condoms because they cant get them, they don't know how to use them or they are not available. So, it is not as simple as a b c, and we advocate for a broader and bigger response to HIV aids. We also have to make people to realize that there is a difference between refusing to change and failing to change. Because people are blamed for being positive. Because, if we had a Danny A or if we had a Danny B or a Danny C u know, but we bring in a picture of saying no, sometimes u have good intentions, u have the good things but the environment u are parading in is so restrictive that your good intentions cannot be realized. So that is the contribution of -----------, the African Network of Religious Leaders and -------------. We have come from afar. I am very optimistic that within 2-3 or 4 years may be in Canada we will be talking how we worked together with the media and religious leaders to defeat stigma. We must defeat it because it makes people die of preventable, manageable and postponable illness. It makes people die of a reversible infection like aids. So it must go thank you.
Questions-there is a bit of concern in the US over the emphasis in --------in giving money to faith based organisations and it is a little hard at this stage to track where it is going. But I do know that a lot of quite, conservative religions, US based religious organisations have applied for the money and I guess in terms of the issues that the last speaker brought up about how to model, how religious organisations should be sending preventional messages and so on, are there any thoughts about how that is going play on in the context of the pepfa.
Ans. (by the man in blue)-As the American in the panel, why don't I? I would say it is not clear yet. I think there are still a lot of questions about pepfa. My own organization is part of a team, a consortium that has been involved in applying for some of that funding around orphans and ---------- children. There are a range of requests and calls and proposals across the 3 areas of priority within the pepfa strategy. There is an emphasis on values based prevention, in certain ways, but I think it is still too new to know for sure how it is going to play out. We are probably looking at, when I went through the first cycle of granting ----, so I think we kind of need to see in the first fiscal year where the money is going, and it a year or two to see how it is actually being used, before we are really in a position to judge that. I would say that, I think there is greater openness in pepfa for a range of faith based organizations. To apply, to be open and their USA id has been very supportive in its trying to almost mentor and help faith based organizations, find ways to get to the decisions.
Mary Robinson-I think it will be very important that any allocation of money under pepfa to faith based is done under the context of really dealing with the reality of the issues. I think it is interesting now that the figures are coming through that more girls are infected who married than single girls. And I think these are the kinds of issues that really will need to be addressed, and will be need to addressed in a much more sensitive and holistic way than things to be at the case of the moment.
Question-I would like to ask (name) how he feels religious leaders in your country will react to president (name) statement yesterday, where he very much down laid the world of condoms and made it seem as if a and b were sufficient.
Ans. Priest-There were 3 reactions to the speech. The people who have traditionally downplayed the importance of condoms would be very happy that he has reinforced what they have already said. But there will be another group of religious leaders which will be clearly disappointed that the speech did not much what Uganda has done in fighting in HIV aids. Because we made sure that we increase abstinence among the people who are not married. We encouraged them to postpone sexual involvement. We encouraged faithfulness, together with safeness. We also encouraged condom use among the three types of people. One, those who are positive like me. Two, those who are negative and want to remain negative. Three, those are -------. And four who are HIV status blind, that is they do not know if they are positive or not. And to say that condoms did not work in Uganda or that they are limited to my grant workers is of course to deny what is properly recorded in history. The study group of course I said there were three, the study group of course will be the one who don't know what to do about the speech, who don't know what to make about it.
Question by (name) from the Australian review-u talked about, the conference the lack of political leaders, they just haven't attended. In terms of religious leaders, this seems to be a probably a lack of attendance. This is to the panel, which would be disappointed by that, and would u have any reasons for that?
American answers-why don't I start. I think as an organization that works with religious leadership around the world, the difference between religious leaders and politically leaders is budget. Mostly. So unless religious leadership is being sponsored or is involved in a particular activity or program, the people that tend to be sent by faith communities are professional program people. So u got a wide range of very competent people from faith communities and so forth, who are here. But often being equal the leadership being tends to send the people who are professional in the area. I think part of what is promising--------------- leadership track. I think if that gets developed in a full two year planning process for Toronto, I think it gives us ---------(audio blank)-----------attention among religious leadership to bring the kind of leadership from the faith sector, that is if u will, at the same level seniority, import and influence as we see. And perhaps then we can see in Toronto that you've got a much stronger sector of religious leadership than political leadership and then that gives the faith communities even stronger opportunities to be advocates for taking this issue seriously.
Mary Robinson-I certainly think that the focus on leadership here is a very important dimension of tackling HIV and Aids. And in all the sessions that I participated there has been an intention to build on that, in preparation for Toronto. And I think that's very important. And I do feel that its disappointing that very few federal state or government came to the Bangkok conference because this isn't an issue of health, this isn't an issue of development this isn't an issue of any particular sector, and it is an issue of overwhelming importance for every government. And therefore we need government leaders who are present on behalf of their government, and soonerly I think we need church leaders who are present on behalf of their church and I take the point about the resources issues especially for the churches. But still when churches want to be represented it is something important they find the resources. So I do think that in planing for Toronto this has to be very high on agenda.
Priest-Its not adequate but it is better than how it has been. U know I have been following these conferences from Geneva, Durban, Barcelona. And for the first time I think we have a bigger presence of religion within this conference. The interfaith program, the pre-conference program for faith based, statements from religious leaders. Some of us will be speaking in -------- sessions on aids and religion. So I think with this more recognition of the role of religious leaders and religion in fighting against HIV aids in this conference and as my colleagues say more is going to be got when we go to (name of the place) next year and by the time for Toronto we would have been in a very bigger -------.
Mary Robinson-I feel again as moderator of last night session that I should refer to the fact that there was one statement from the floor of concern that all though there were a number of faith representatives the Jewish community was not represented. And I think in planning for the future, it will be important that the Jewish community is also represented in a panel speaking for different faith.
(name) from the (name) magazine-what is ur take on the ----------------- argument where the church will satisfy itself with promoting fidelity and abstinence and leave the condom use up to the government and ngo
Priest-the two are not the same. When u r travelling by road u use the car, when u reach the ocean the car becomes useless. U take a boat or a streamer. When u fly in the air u cant go by the streamer u must have a airplane. So u cannot say me, I will promote abstinence only because u abstain for 24 years but in the 25th year someone has to get married. And they must know what to do before they engage in their first sexual intercourse. And even within marriage their will be infections from ------------- roots. Or partners will already be positive. So its a comprehensive, we call it in Uganda combination prevention approach. Like u get combination care approach, my religion talks about combination prevention approach from (name), chapter 4-11. So I don't see how religions can shy away from doing both. Because what is fidelity? If I'm morally lawful or faithful, my morality will not protect me from infection. Let me give u a very simple illustration, if I drink this water which has been supplied for me free, I haven't done anything morally wrong. I have done my water. But in a reason if this water is contaminated and I don't boil it, I will get typhoid if it has contamination. So I have done something morally right but I have done something morally unsafe. So the religious leaders should promote both, that people should do the right and the safe thing. They should do the good and the safe thing. U should drink ur own water but u should also make sure its boiled water. U should sleep in ur own bed but u should also ensure that it is protected with mosquito net. So it's not an either-or situation.
Mary Robinson-I cant speak for religious leaders but I think there is an analogy with part of my background as a constitutional lawyer because u approach a constitution as a living document. And it evolves and u reinterpret and that's what constitutional juris------ is about. Looking at current situations and using a document, which may be quite old but has the capacity to evolve. And I think that is what we are looking to the churches for as well. They have their values, and those values are extremely important. The spirituality of those values is very important. But like bishop (name) I think that quite a lot of the thinking on those values preceded the grave threat to life of HIV and aids. Grave threat to young parents, to teachers, to nurses. We know that the AB is not adequate. It doesn't help us to fully address the problem of HIV and aids. I think we need new and imaginative ways of seeing that procreation itself...safe creation of new life can in many circumstances only be through being very careful in the use of condoms. There is a need to, u know re-look at this because of the right threatening nature of it. But I think it is going to be difficult. I think it is going to need great sensitivity and I welcome the pre-conference meeting of religious. I think that those discussions in the immediate context of an international conference on aids are good opportunities for those who are already coping with these realities everyday in their own lives. Particularly those who are living with HIV and aids, they can inform the discussion and try to have more of a response that is loving, that is thoughtful, that reflects people's realities and that ---------- spirituality can have a huge huge influence. So if faith based groups can help us both in cutting stigma and discrimination but they can be incredibly powerful and in encouraging prevention that is realistic and effective. This will make a great difference to this appalling, catastrophic epidemic------------.
American-In working with leaders from wide range of religions on this issue, I think one of the frustrations or concerns within the faith communities has been that, from the health perspective very often that condom has been given what they might see it as self ------- importance in this fight. And I think that, even as I think what Mary has said it is very appropriate in terms of how we have to continue to encourage and push within faith traditions to understand how traditions and teachings have to be seen in the context of this situation. That is what social and ethical teaching does in all religions over time. It adapts and responds and reflects to situations that arise in human life. And they continue to push that at the same time I think we also need to say that there needs to be greater movement from the public health side to understand that there are serious issues around behavior and values and so forth that they can also make this a readily preventable disease. And I think we need to continue to facilitate that conversation. But unfortunately we have seen it in the press in the last 24 hours, has continued to be said as oppositional and as almost...I won't say total, but non-discussive. They somehow we cant talk across that divide. I think we need to continue to facilitate ways of building trust and understanding that even as this is important that we need to help different sectors find and fulfill their particular competitive advantage. Because all of us have to work together. If we rely on the religious communities alone to ensure condom use we will fail just as we will fail on any other issue. We have to all work on it together, but at the same time we have to see and focus on what is the most competitive advantage of the public health sector, of the religious sector, of the political leadership sector, of the business sector lets work together around the table and together identify those, resource them and encourage them.
Q-I heard u speak at the religious leaders conference in Nairobi, the first -------religious leaders conference. I'm here representing the children we filmed, the film, which was shown in that conference. And two and a half years on, they got a list of questions for me for the leaders here at the conference. And one of them Kevin has been on his own for now four years since his mother died and still takes care of himself. And for him, I'm just gonna speak for him, he sees that his whole community in (name) is being wiped out and he suffers a lot. He talks about how he suffers a lot. And he sees a lot of adults, to be kind of frank, just say blah blah blah all time on. And wants to see what kind of action. Just if u could speak to him and tell him what really is being done and isn't being done. And why we should be proud or ashamed?
Priest-The life of the children to give them, to help them recover their self-esteem and their self-confidence. To know that even when the parents are gone or died they can be given the skills and the confidence to live a life. Number two is that we tried to give accurate information surrounding these issues, to bring appropriate attitudes among people. To help them understand like Jim said its not something that one can do alone but it takes average to address the impacts of aids and also to stop its spread. And also give young people the skills, we have a program called 'Daughters of the King', which is encouraging giving young women skills of how to say no to sex without giving a reasons. Traditionally, its been common that when a boy asks a girl for sex the easiest way of saying no is that ---------, mom will be annoyed, I will get pregnant. And we teach this people that, no that's a wrong way of saying that because every reason u give will be crushed. So if u really want to say no, say no without giving reasons. So empowerment to young people. And also to ensure that the survivor's skills are coupled with economic empowerment programs like myself, I have a program I run 'Friends of Kanan Giddian foundation'. We are looking after100 children. And one of the programs we have is 'Earn as u Train', we give them catering skills and every last Sunday of the month, we invite friends and these young people cook a meal, which we buy per plate. And they sell about 100 or 200 plates. Then they share the money among themselves so that u don't have to finish school for two years training before u start earning. U earn as u train so that u get confidence to live on. There are many other programs we are doing but we are not yet 100% there, but there is hope.
We have time for about one more question....
Conclusion.... End of the session.