Religious leaders for `pragmatic approach` to AIDS

Vienna: Representatives of major religions
called today for a "pragmatic approach" to the fight against
AIDS and greater involvement by faith communities.

A document released on the sidelines of the 18th
International AIDS Conference in the Austrian capital called
for religions "to work unceasingly to end the stigmatisation
and discrimination" suffered by those with the disease.

The document, which had been agreed at a forum in
Amsterdam in March, was signed by representatives of
Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Baha`i

The document called for a "pragmatic approach" in the
fight against the disease, and urged religious groups to take
a more active role, despite the hostility of some religious
leaders -- notably Pope Benedict XVI -- to the use of condoms.

"We want to do all we can to save lives. We need an HIV
competent church," said Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, who heads the
Young Women`s Christian Association (YWCA).

"Our recommendation to faith communities is to provide
fully accessible and comprehensive sexual and reproductive
health information to women and girls which will enable them
to make a decision," she said.

"The Church has to accept this," she added.
Hany El Banna, president of Muslim organisation
Humanitarian Forum, said it was necessary to begin a dialogue
with more conservative leaders.

"We need to educate our religious leaders," he said.


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