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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
CHINA: Buddhism Plays Role in China's Battle Against AIDS

November 29, 2011
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.

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