Church needs to scale up HIV response, says bishop

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Bishop Julito Cortez, chairman of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Health Care, welcomes the participants of the 6th Catholic Asia-Pacific Coalition on HIV and AIDS Conference in Manila, Nov. 13, 2016. (Photo: CAPCHA)

MANILA, Nov. 17, 2016— A Catholic bishop stressed the need for the Church to scale up its fight against HIV/AIDS and counter discrimination against those living with the condition.

In the Philippines, where there has been a big spike in HIV cases, Dumaguete Bishop Julito Cortez of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Health Care (ECH), recognized that more than words are needed.

“In fact, we are impelled to do something and, for this reason, we are called to have a pro-active Catholic response to the reality of HIV/AIDS in our country,” said the prelate over Manila archdiocese-run Radio Veritas.

“As Christians, we are impelled by our faith to respond to situations of suffering like illness and sickness, so guided by our faith in Jesus Christ,” he said.

Cortez was in Manila since Sunday for the 6th Catholic Asia-Pacific Coalition on HIV and AIDS Conference, which ended today.

The gathering, which aimed to step up the Church’s involvement in HIV/AIDS mitigation, prevention, and care programs, was attended by more than 65 participants from at least 11 countries.

Fr. Dan Cancino, ECH executive secretary, said while debates and discussions are important, they need to translate into action.

“There should be concrete steps, and we are challenged to take up these measures,” said Cancino, who is a medical doctor specializing in public health and infectious diseases.

The priest reiterated the Church’s call for an end to HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination.

“Let’s stop the stigma and discrimination. They are also humans. They are also created by God like us. They also have dignity,” said Cancino.

Latest data from the Health department show a rising trend in people testing positive for HIV in the country with more than 800 cases reported in August.

Health officials said the consequences of stigma and discrimination are wide-ranging, limiting people’s access to HIV testing, treatment, and other services. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews) 

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