12/01/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Ecumenical march for AIDS patients in Delhi

by Nirmala Carvalho
On World Aids Day Catholics and Protestants unite in a prayer vigil and in solidarity for those affected by the disease. Sonia Gandhi and Bill Clinton launch a new free treatment for HIV-positive children.

Delhi (AsiaNews) – The CBCI Health Commission and the Christian Medical Association of India have organised a prayer vigil for today to "express solidarity with people living with AIDS/HIV" and voice their concern for the state of the infection. Participants will walk from Sacred Heart Cathedral to the New Delhi's Free Church in a march that will be started by Delhi's Protestant bishop, Rev Karam Masih, and concluded with the Catholic archbishop, Mgr Vincent Concessao.  An ecumenical prayer will bring the event to a close.

The vigil is intended to "remind people to keep the promises they made as individuals, churches, institutions, and nations to fight the stigma and help people live with dignity."

"India has more than five million people affected by the virus and as concerned and responsible citizens, it is important and appropriate that we join in this expression and take a pledge to fight stigma and discrimination," said the CBCI Commission Chairman, Archbishop Bernard Moras.

"The HIV crisis is of such great magnitude that its impact on humanity cannot be tackled by any one single agency. We remember the words of Pope John Paul II [. . .], who said: 'The battle against AIDS ought to be everyone's battle!' he added.

This year the rally was organised to coincide with World AIDS Day, whose theme this year is "Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise".

As part of the activities, a National Paediatric HIV/AIDS Initiative was launched yesterday by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and former US President Bill Clinton in the capital New Delhi.

The Clinton HIV/AIDS Foundation is providing drugs for 10,000 children free of charge. They should be treated before the end of the year.

"This is a great day but we have a long way to go," Clinton said.

For her part, Ms Gandhi noted that "social ostracism is still prevalent" and must be fought with every means at our disposal.

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