12/01/2005, 00.00
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AIDS patients need treatment to the spirit as well

by Weena Kowitwanij
In a inter-faith conference on AIDS, Catholic participants stress the need for spiritual support to AIDS patients; they also express the hope that a more open society can restore their will to live. In Thailand, there are 1,092,327 HIV-positive people, including 50,620 children.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Speaking at a conference organised by Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and Muslims for World AIDS day, Dr Praphan Panupak, director of the AIDS Research Centre of the Thai Red Cross, said that AIDS patients "need, love, understanding and affection" because "treatment and drugs are not enough for them; they need the support of the society in which they live".

The meeting began with brief religious ceremonies for each confession. Catholics prayed for the sick but also for those who died from this terrible disease.

"I'd like to see participants in today's meeting take greater care of the spiritual health of the sick," said Usanee Nanasilp, secretary general of the Commission for the pastoral care of AIDS patients.

"We must think through how we can help them lead happier lives in a society that is more accepting. We must encourage them and give them hope based on the values of life according to the teachings of each faith," he noted.

"An HIV-infected homemaker came to see me one day and said that the government gave her the drugs she needed but what made her suffer the most was living separate from the rest of society," he added.

After the speeches, the Thai Working Group presented figures that illustrate how widespread the disease is in the country.

In Thailand, there are 1,092,327 HIV-positive people, including 50,620 children. In 2005, 551,505 people died from the disease.

The number of infected people varies according to age: 25,62 in the 25-29 age group; 26 per cent in the 30-34 group; 16,70 per cent in the 35-39 group. The data also show that 3,05 per cent are in the 4-9 group.

Most are workers (44,3 per cent ), but there are farmers (20,5 per cent ), unemployed (5,9 per cent ) and homemakers (3,9 per cent ),

HIV- and AIDS-prevention programmes are in place in four border regions near Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia. 

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