Religious leaders and top UN officials began Monday a two-day conference in the Netherlands to debate HIV issues and religions' response to the illness.
Several dozen Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh leaders were taking part in the conference taking place in Den Dolder near Utrecht in the central Netherlands through Tuesday.
Top United Nations officials involved in HIV-programmes and other organisations dealing with HIV also joined the debate.
Among others, the participants would discuss how stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV are perpetuated both in religious communities and society at large, and what religious leaders could do to fight such discrimination.
“Religious leaders can play a vital role in the AIDS response,” said Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS Executive Director in a statement.
“By promoting community solidarity they can prevent new HIV infections and ensure that people living with HIV are treated with dignity and respect.”
The event, co-chaired by leaders from several religions, is an initiative from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and Cordaid - a Catholic development organisation located in the Netherlands. The Dutch government, the UN and several non-governmental organisations support the event.
The UN and the World Health Organisation estimate that worldwide some 30.6 and 36.1 million people are infected with HIV, more than 22 million of whom in Sub-Saharan Africa. More than 90 percent of those infected with HIV live in development countries.