The the HIV/AIDS program of the NCCP through the Program Unit on Ecumenical Education and Nurture is in full swing. Recently, the HIV and AIDS trainor’s training [Is this correct?] in the Mindanao region just came to its conclusion. The training was well attended by representatives from NCCP member-churches — UCCP, UMC, IFI, and ECP.
A biblico-theological reflection was given by Pastor Jeric Cortado of the UMC to set theological underpinnings of the need for an HIV/AIDS program. He emphasized the urgency of Building a compassionate and caring churches and communities with PLHIV.
Mr. Mike Mahinay of ALAGAD, an organization in Mindanao dedicated to serving people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV), gave the important input of the state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines. As per the latest data in November 2012, there were 284 new HIV Absero-positive individuals confirmed by the STD/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory (SACCL) and reported to the HIV and AIDS Registry. This was 34% higher compared to the same period last year (n=212 in 2011). For most of the participants, this is an eye-opener for them. The information given was concretized in the participants’ visit to the office of ALAGAD where they actually spoke, interacted and related with PLHIV and by the testimonies of 2 persons infected with the virus.
Mr. Jay Roy Tipayan, coordinator of the HIV/AIDS program focused on how churches can create safe spaces for PLHIV. Through the input, questions and discussions arose on the relationship of gender and sexuality, and HIV and AIDS. This became an opportunity for everyone to deepen their understanding not only on HIV and AIDS but on gender and sexuality. The flow of ideas during the discussion was lively. Participants were really engaged. In the end, many misconceptions were clarified and understood. Appropriately, the discussion was followed by a BTR on gender and sexuality given by Ms. Johanna de la Cruz where she pointed out that we are both sexual and spiritual beings therefore our sexuality should not be seen as negative and how sex and sexuality was used and still is subjugate women all throughout history.
Ms. Arceli Bile gave a bible study in ending Stigma and Discrimination. She expounded the biblical text on John 4:1-26 and contextualized it in our present time. She asked the participants, what the faces of discrimination are and how Jesus would have addressed the issues of stigma and discrimination.
Armed with a basic knowledge of HIV and AIDS, participants’ saw how important this ministry is. With knowledge and willingness, they worked on plans on how the churches can be more engaged in ministering to PLHIV. They committed to continue the awareness campaign on HIV and AIDS because sadly, it is little understood among the people at the pews. Furthermore, theirs is a drive to include this topic as part of inputs and activities of youth camps, clergy meetings, lay conferences, etc. Participants became excited about establishing HIV/AIDS helpdesks in their churches.