Buddhist Monks raise AIDS awareness in Laos
14 November 2006
Every morning Buddhist Monk Maytryjit gets up at 3:45 am to meditate for one hour. Afterwards, he walks through the streets of Vientiane in the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic to collect his food alms.
However, this October he took time out of his usual routine to catch a flight to Pakse to attend a workshop convened by UNAIDS Cosponsor the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) entitled Leadership for Results, which brought together more than 100 representatives from several provinces including Buddhist monks, government ministries and people living with HIV.
UNDP’s Leadership for Results training workshops aim to develop the capacity of local leaders to transform the response to AIDS by promoting leadership at all levels. A series of workshops were held, the final one in Pakse where the leaders attending formed seven “break through” groups in charge of developing proposals for a transformed response to AIDS in the country. The “break through” initiatives focused on increasing HIV prevention among women living in rural settings, improving access to condoms within the Army and increasing access to information on HIV through radio.
Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Resident Representative, a.i. said, “The rationale behind the Leadership for Results programme is to encourage the formation of strong leadership on AIDS related issues within all sectors, beyond those traditionally involved in the epidemic’s response.”
“This involves stimulating a deep-rooted shift within individuals, organizations and communities, to enable them to see AIDS from a new perspective, identify new possibilities and take action,” she added.
As a follow up to the workshop, the group committed to carrying out ten HIV prevention pilot projects at bus stations, markets and villages, with the aim of reaching out to thousands of people. Using radio programmes and loudspeakers, Monk Maytryjit and his group will also begin disseminating AIDS information during religious ceremonies, including one of Laos’ most significant religious festivals, the Pha That Luang (The Great Stupa or Sacred Reliquary) that is held in November.
“According to Buddhist philosophy one needs to follow the right path and an important part of our life-skills is to treat every person equally. It is important therefore to reduce stigma against people living with HIV in Laos and to help their families,” said Monk Mayrtyjit.