Xinhua News Agency (11.20.11) - Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Buddhist monks are raising awareness about HIV prevention and
supporting people living with the virus in the Xishuangbanna
Dai autonomous prefecture in southwest China's Yunnan
province. Launched in 2003 with support from UNICEF and a
local Buddhist association, the "Home of Buddha Glory" program
(HBG) offers a regular gathering place at Zongfo Monastery
where hundreds of HIV/AIDS patients of any faith talk to each
other and listen to the monks preach.
"The place really feels like a home," noted one HIV-positive
non-Buddhist, who said she has learned from the monks how to
live a positive life.
HIV can cause societal burdens, leave families poorer, and rob
children of their parents' care, said Du Hanting, deputy abbot
of the monastery. The monks' roles include helping those
affected reduce stress, anxiety, and anguish. A lack of
HIV/AIDS knowledge has led some patients' families to shun
them or turn them out of the house.
"Monks serve as people's spiritual leaders and should guide
them through hardship," Du said. "We often talk and have
dinner with patients in front of their family members to show
that the virus won't be transmitted through daily behavior."
The monks also conduct AIDS education and awareness outreach
in rural areas. About 70 percent of the prefecture's HIV
infections are acquired sexually. Since sex is a taboo topic
for the monks, they give general advice and cite Buddhist
teachings, leaving prevention particulars to the secular
program members. To reach nonliterate residents, HBG is
creating a compact disc that will include educational songs
and lectures in plain language.
Muslim imams from the northwestern Ningxia Hui autonomous
region have taken note of the work. "The imams once travelled
all the way to our monastery to see what they could learn,"
said Ai Hanen, the program's operations chief.