Take away the stone of stigma!

Statement for World AIDS Day 2018

In John 11:38–44, Jesus told the people at Lazarus’s tomb, “Take away the stone!” He then called to Lazarus, who had been interred for four days, “Come out.” He did, and Jesus told the people, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

People living with HIV are still being considered “dead” by many in our society; they think of PLHIV as people waiting for death to come. However, we already know that PLHIV can live a life in its fullness if support and medications are provided in abundance and are easily accessed. Then and now, the struggles of PLHIV in the Philippines are rooted in stigma, shame, and discrimination in various forms. Most of them are institutionalized and ingrained in the country’s poor sexual and health education and difficulty in accessing testing and treatment.

This year is the 30th World AIDS Day celebration. The theme of UNAIDS is “Know Your Status,” and that of the Philippine government is “Saving Lives through Leadership and Partnerships.” Both themes are important in our collective work towards a society that is not just free of HIV & AIDS but also a society that is ready to welcome and accommodate PLHIV and their needs in health services.

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines is grounded in the theology that PLHIV are created in the image of God and that God loves them no less. PLHIV who are empowered have a great capacity in advocating for change in our health system and in healing the ills in our society. They are the direct beneficiaries of our ministry. Thus, they bring new perspectives in strengthening our work because this is their experience. NCCP, together with churches and partner organizations, continues to empower PLHIV and the most vulnerable to HIV & AIDS – women, youth and children – through education and access to voluntary testing and treatment.

NCCP remains in solidarity with PLHIV and their loved ones. Our task is to take away the stone of stigma and prejudice. And if PLHIV publicly come out as positive, together we must take off the grave clothes of fear with which society has covered them, so that they can live a full life just as everyone else. We must find the causes of stigma and shame, discrimination, denial, inaction and misaction in our churches and institutions.

Thus, we call on our member churches to continue their ministry for PLHIV and their families – to use the SAVE approach1, to give correct information about HIV & AIDS that emphasizes prevention, and to conduct HIV testing in congregations and communities. These calls are a concrete response to the UNAIDS theme “Know your status.”

HIV & AIDS is not just a medical issue, but a justice issue. It has economic, social, political and cultural dimensions2. Our faith compels us to continue working with and for PLHIV to address the many issues around this social illness. We echo our 2017 statement: “We call on the government to assume full responsibility in the provision of free health services to all people, and provides essential medicines for free. The exclusive utilization of public funds for public health facilities will guarantee that healthcare is provided for free and will never be profit-driven or used for income generation at the expense of all patients, including PLHIV.”

As we commemorate World AIDS Day, we commend all those in this mission – the human rights activists and health advocates, for their love, support and commitment. We honor our predecessors for lighting up a path that we follow today. May we continue to create compassionate and caring churches and communities for everyone, not least to PLHIV.





Corporate Treasurer

Acting General Secretary


[1]  (Safer practices, Access to treatment, Voluntary testing and counseling, and Empowerment)

[1] NCCP Policy Statement, 2005