A just concluded symposium which focused on eliminating the stigma and discrimination directed towards people affected and living with HIV/AIDS has been described as “successful” by one of the key stakeholders of the event.

President of the Barbados Evangelical Association (BEA), Dr. Nigel Taylor, who along with officials of the National HIV/AIDS Commission staged the event last Saturday at the Dove Convention Centre, said he was heartened by the response of the members and friends of the BEA who supported the important meeting.

“Quite a bit of data would have come out of the several presentations during the symposium. We would have had the most updated version in terms of statistics as they related to HIV/AIDS. We were privy to understand the context of the problems teenagers faced in their interaction and to help us put interventions in place,” Dr. Taylor said.

The BEA President was also very pleased with the intense discussion of what needed to be done to foster greater links with the media and the church. According to him, the symposium found that most of the positive HIV/AIDS initiatives undertaken by the church seemed not to make ‘headlines’.

“It seems that most of the time the negative aspects are the ones which are highlighted and we are now trying to forge a link whereby the positive issues are highlighted,” he said.

Dr. Taylor spoke at length about the numerous programmes which faith-based organisations continued to put on in their drive to assist persons living with HIV/AIDS. He said “we do have persons who are in tune with the operations  in the community and they are very active at that level, in their respective church programming to assist persons living with HIV/AIDS and it goes way beyond any food programme”.

He is of the opinion that the church must develop a policy which would encompass all, where churches would accept certain ‘unwritten and written guidelines’ to deal with those living with HIV and those who minister to them.

“After 25 years with this virus and no vaccine that is able to cure it, we need to look more at preventative methods. One of the things that churches need to recognise is that the teenager of the community is a teenager of the church and put programmes in place without compartmentalising them as either church or non-church,” the BEA President said.

He has described the symposium as a catalyst to encourage churches which had no systems in place to deal with HIV/AIDS to create such. Coming out of this, 30, 60 and 90-day action plans were formulated by the churches in attendance.

“It is expected now that the churches will focus on long term goals. We need to think in terms of if churches can see the need further down the road, beyond the 90 days, to establish halfway houses collectively, or to support those who have the financial means to do that. The church must look beyond the 90-day period and come to grips with reality that up until the time that we can have a certified vaccine here, the church needs to significantly lead in this context,” he said.

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