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Consultative meet on HIV and AIDS concludes
Staff Reporter DIMAPUR, OCT 22 (NPN):
Published on 23 Oct. 2010 12:18 AM IST
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Four-day long North East theological educators’ consultative meet on HIV and AIDS concluded Friday at Nagi Guest House Dimapur with CBCNEI Guwahati peace & justice honorary secretary and lawyer Athungo Shitiri presenting an overview of legal aspect of HIV and AIDS.
A total of 12 theological colleges and institutions from Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland attended the programme which was initiated by Theological Educators of North East India on HIV and AIDS (TENEIHA) working group, to address the increasing HIV and AIDS pandemic in the North East region.
After four days of deep deliberation on the issue from various aspects and also noting the “slow and half-hearted” response from both the church and theological institutions, the participants reaffirmed their stand for the cause of people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHAs) and arrived at a 14 point decision to call on all responsible people, organizations and communities to action.
Presenting his paper on the legal aspect of HIV and AIDS, Athungo Shitiri said that as per reports, there was no comprehensive law in India to respond to the rights and needs of PLHAs and the country was yet to take steps to fulfill its obligations under the expanded UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) declaration on commitment on HIV and AIDS.
However, the overview stated that constitutional provisions relevant to HIV and AIDS situation in India could be found in its part III and IV dealing with the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy respectively.
Athungo Shitiri’s paper also pointed out that Articles 14-17 and 21 of the Indian constitution which guarantees each citizen equality before law could be relevant in protecting aggrieved PLHAs from isolation, denial of treatment, and discrimination related cases.
He also exhorted on protective and supportive legal framework, and legal interventions that could promote supportive environment.
The thrust of such approach to legal policy on HIV and AIDS however must not be to use law as a weapon but as a protective instrument that respects the worth of all individuals and reinforce cooperative efforts to deal with the effects of the pandemic, he concluded.
Outcome of the consultative meet included a call for all theological institutions in the region to “urgently” start offering a full-fledged course on HIV and AIDS so as to involve theological students in practical ministry with PLHAs and NGOs working with PLHAs during their course of study; to enable students to formulate proper perspective and approach to the issue and become relevant advocates and counselors as they step into ministry.
The need for theological institutions in NE to explore and garner resources in training the teaching personnel to effectively address the issue to students was also deliberated.
The theological educators outlined the urgent need for a “change of attitude” towards PLHAs as a step for removal of stigma and discrimination and accepting them into the society, church and educational institutions; for a greater involvement of the church into HIV and AIDS ministry, and sponsor PLHAs particularly widows and orphans, whom they found, were doubly stigmatized; for all conventions, associations, churches and theological institutions in the region to include ‘AIDS Sunday’ in their calendar of events and contribute collections received on this Sunday to PLHAs and Christian organizations working directly with the affected; for the church to to impart responsible sex education based on biblical foundations for theological institutions and churches to emerge together to share resources and develop a theology of hope and life in the context of HIV and AIDS; and for creating awareness on legal rights of PLHAs to both the public and PLHAs.
The four-day programme had a medical doctor, legal expert, counselor and ethicist, NGOs and church leaders and theological professors presenting their papers and cases from their own field of expertise. The main resource persons included ETC Jorhat (Assam) principal Dr. Akheto Sema, ETC professor Rev. Dr. E. Murry, ETC lecturer Vimeno Lasetso, Legislators’ Forum for HIV and AIDS Nagaland state coordinator Dr. Vinito Chishi, OTS (Nagaland) academic dean Dr. Zelhou Keyho, ECS Tuensang director Phutoli Chingmak, CANA Delhi executive director Samraj, Miklat Ministries director Asha Sanchu, and TENEIHA working group convener Rev. Dr. Razouselie Lasetso.

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