OCEANIA/ SOLOMON ISLANDS From Africa to the Pacific South African Bishop Kevin Dowling in Melanesia on “choose life” campaign against AIDS

Monday, 20 March 2006

Honiara (Fides Service) - It is a journey which has taken him to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Island and other parts of the Pacific to increase awareness on the theme of respect for life and the fight against HIV/AIDS: Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustemberg diocese in South Africa where AIDS affects 47.2% of the people, continues his visit in Melanesia.
The Bishop said communities in Oceania must take seriously the campaign to choose life and prevent HIV/AIDS, taking steps especially to help the young people. The present day moral and spiritual crisis affects young people and it is important to promote a culture of respect for self and for others, and respect for the life and dignity of every person. “We must help people realise they are unique and precious persons created in the image of God”, the Bishop said. Local communities are also called to welcome rather than exclude HIV+ people and people with AIDS out of fear and ignorance.
An estimated 74,000 people in Oceania are living with HIV. Although less than 4,000 people are believed to have died of AIDS in 2005, about 8,200 are thought to have become newly infected with HIV. Among young people 15-24 years of age, an estimated 1.2% of women and 0.4% of men were living with HIV in 2005. The Church in Oceania has launched a massive prevention campaign with the slogan Born to Live. The Church’s aim is to diminish the impact on the community and the campaign follows two lines: increase awareness and assist people at risk, prostitutes, street children. (Agenzia Fides 20/03/2006 Righe: 25 Parole: 254)