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ETHIOPIA: Religious leaders unite in battle against AIDS

Photo: irin
Religious leaders unite
ADDIS ABABA, 9 May 2003 (PlusNews) - Ethiopian religious leaders have, for the first time, united in the battle against the devastating AIDS pandemic sweeping the country.

Leaders from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the chairman of the Islamic Affairs Supreme Council and the president of the Evangelical Church combined to combat the virus during a news conference earlier this week.

They vowed to tackle stigma and discrimination among the 2.2 million people in the country who are living with the deadly virus.

Abune Paulos, the Patriarch of the 30-million strong Ethiopian Orthodox Church, said that both financial and technical support was needed to combat HIV/AIDS.

"We would stress also that those who are infected with the virus should not be stigmatised and discriminated against," he said.

Sheik Abdurahiman Hussein Mussa, who heads the Islamic Council added: "It is obligatory to every Muslim to care for and comfort the infected and affected brothers and sisters and avoid stigma and discrimination."

The Rev Iteffa Gobena, head of the Evangelical Church, echoed the view.

"We have to give care and support to people who have HIV, are scared for their lives and fear stigma," he said.

Negatu Mereke, who heads the government body aimed at tackling the virus, said the support of the religious community was vital if the country was to win the fight.

Samuel Nyambi, UN Resident Coordinator, hailed the "historic" step that the religious groups had taken to unite, adding that they could reach the grass roots of Ethiopia.

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