232nd Meeting – January 2003

A Buddhist approach to HIV/AIDS prevention and care

A talk by Laurie Maund

All throughout South and Southeast Asia, Buddhist monks, novices and nuns are responding to the call for their help in managing the impacts of HIV/AIDS on their communities and congregations.  By analyzing HIV and its impacts in the framework of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism - suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering - they have concluded that HIV/AIDS is a form of suffering and that they, as religious leaders, have a responsibility to work to prevent or bring an end to that suffering.

They are doing this in a variety of ways.  To prevent the spread of HIV in their communities, and to reduce stigma and discrimination, they conduct workshops and training for youth and community members.  To assist those infected, they give Buddhist meditation and dharma-based counseling.  For those who have progressed to the symptomatic stage they give education on traditional medicines, provide donations taken from temple offerings, and set up income generation activities.  For the terminally ill, they make home visits and give pre-death counseling.

For the affected, they provide social support through financial donations, income generation activities and counseling.  Children who have been orphaned or who are affected are taken into temples. The boys are ordained as novice monks, or live as temple boys.  Nuns take care of affected girls.  They also provide education and scholarships.

The work of the monks, nuns and novices does not stop when the patient passes away.  Several temples have setup coffin recycling projects and provide coffins to the families of the deceased free of charge.  They also conduct funeral ceremonies without accepting offerings and even provide the necessary requisites such as incense, candles and robes.  The work that the monks, novices and nuns are doing has set an example and is being followed by leaders of other religions as well such as Christian, Hindu and Muslim.