03/04/2006, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Church helps HIV+ people to live normal life

by Vu Nhi Cong

Cardinal Pham Minh Man: "We must do our utmost to prevent the spread of the disease and to give love and support to HIV-positive people."

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Helping HIV-positive people to live with their families in society, preventing their marginalization due to exaggerated fears and moralistic attitudes, while mobilizing people to fight the disease. These are the aims the Church of Vietnam has set itself, to tackle the current situation of 40,000 HIV-positive people in Ho Chi Minh City alone, and at least 200,000 throughout the country. Most afflicted people are under 35 years.

Cardinal Pham Minh Man wrote in a pastoral letter dedicated to chastity: "We turn to those who need to be loved and cared for most".  Speaking to AsiaNews, he added: "We must do our best to prevent the spread of the disease in families and in society and to enable HIV-positive persons to live a normal life with love and support".

In effect, there are programmes for HIV-positive people set up by religious non-governmental organizations and local social groups which offer information and necessary assistance to targeted groups.

"In the beginning I did not tell my parents about my HIV situation," one young woman – who is part of a sharing and discussion HIV/AIDS group in Saigon Archdiocese – told AsiaNews. "Eventually, I told them the truth. That was terrible: my parents no longer allowed me to eat and drink at the same table with them. They counted how many time I go to the toilet. They forced me to sleep outside. Luckily, I found fathers, sisters and volunteers in the church, who have loved and cared for us. I have tried to live and to bring up my daughter."

Now Vietnam needs social activities, projects, organisations and social workers to help and work with victims of the disease.

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