Thailand: Against AIDS

?Everywhere you turned in Bangkok, there they were: Catholic nuns and Buddhist monks, church leaders and faith-based community organisers from all over the globe who came to Thailand to participate in the 15th International AIDS Conference,? observes Fr Peter Norden SJ, who attended the Conference (IAC) held in Bangkok from 11 to 16 July together with many other Jesuits from different parts of the world. The theme of the Conference was ?Access for All?: AIDS has already killed 20 million people, and currently some 38 million around the world are HIV+, 25 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Medical prevention through some form of vaccine or microbicide is five to ten years away in the future; meanwhile, each year brings 5 million new cases of HIV-infection. And although anti-retroviral therapy is now more readily available, it reaches relatively few. No cure has yet been found. The Bangkok Conference was dominated by oppositional stands regarding the principal forms of behavioural prevention — abstinence and fidelity as against condoms. ?It is impressive to see so many leaders, scientists and activists assembled around the HIV/AIDS challenge and yet, unfortunately, they do not give the impression of uniting in the needed common effort,? writes Michael Czerny SJ representing the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) at the Conference. Amidst these aggressive tensions, the inter-faith chapel was a spiritual oasis where Muslim prayer and Buddhist meditation alternated with Christian services and a daily Eucharist. One evening about eighty Catholic programme representatives gathered to learn about pastoral responses to HIV/AIDS from local Churches in Thailand, India, China and Africa. The Society of Jesus hopes to establish other networks, similar to AJAN, within the Asian Assistancies; the infection rate in these latter regions is on the increase, and very good work has already commenced by way of training and education provided by Jesuits in Thailand. [HL40702] For further information about the development of these networks, contact: Peter Norden SJ, Jesuit Social Services, Australia, peter.norden@jss.org.au , http:// www.jss.org.au . AJAN website: http:// www.jesuitaids.net . XV IAC website: http://www.aids2004.org/