Statement for International AIDS Candlelight Memorial 2018
On this year’s International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) mourns for the lives lost to AIDS and the continuing rapid increase of new HIV infections in the country.
In expanding the work on HIV and AIDS of the NCCP, we are looking at the plight of the women and children. Among the newly diagnosed women in January, five were pregnant at the time of diagnosis. Among the young people, 292 (29%) new diagnoses are in those 15–24 years old. There were also 40 newly diagnosed among children, (10 yo) and adolescents (10–19 yo), two of which are children less than 10 years old; both were infected by mother-to-child transmission.
The women and children in our society still are the most vulnerable sectors in our society – as for the women, they are still most of the time subjected to exploitation, double standards and gender roles. Virginity and purity are still prevalent issues not just in churches but in society at large, and we put this heavier burden on women. Because of this, many women do not want to come out to be tested in fear of judgment that if they are reactive for HIV, they might be ostracized in their own families and communities, be blamed and rejected. Even the use of language tends to emphasize the role of women in the spread of the disease.
The NCCP reiterates that HIV has been transmitted by ignorance, fear, denial and vulnerability. We continue to advocate and urge churches, different sectors and communities to create safe spaces for people who seek acceptance, healing and wholeness. We continue to urge everyone to be in solidarity with those who are excluded, exploited and marginalized because of their diagnosis. We are called to respect others because we are all created in the image of God.
In NCCP, we continue to commit ourselves in upholding our campaigns on “Prevention Not Condemnation,” by creating and providing safe spaces for clergy, church workers and lay people to challenge harmful gender norms that discriminate women and LGBT communities. We continue to commit ourselves in reclaiming and reinterpreting our Scripture, traditions, rituals and practices to liberate our faith from the bondage of exclusions – patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia and biphobia.
We call on the government for a comprehensive action on HIV and AIDS by increasing budget on health thereby ensuring a sustainable supply of antiretrovirals, improving and adding more treatment hubs and providing services such as counseling and empowerment seminars for PLHIV. We call on the government to look into the policies of testing for the youth and children that they may also have confidential voluntary access to testing and treatment.
The NCCP will uphold and work tirelessly for life built on justice because we believe that HIV and AIDS are not just moral dilemmas nor medical diagnoses; they are issues of justice.
We pray with Jesus, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.”
We will commit ourselves, in pursuing life and dignity based on justice. Let us end AIDS together by upholding justice!
JUSTICE RAOUL V. VICTORINO, Ret.
BISHOP RODOLFO A. JUAN
MS. LISSA BELLE R. BROWN
MR. REYNALDO M. NATIVIDAD
REV. REX RB REYES, JR.
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