Cambodia: Buddhist Monks provide home care along with resources for children (February 2006)

Faith-based programs play an essential role in implementing the Emergency Plan by providing home based-care to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) while confronting stigma and discrimination. In Cambodia, discrimination towards those living with HIV/AIDS creates difficult circumstances for health care and support systems. Funding from the Emergency Plan has assisted the organizations Buddhism for Development and the Kien Kes Health Education Network in providing home-based care PLWHA while confronting stigma and discrimination.

In Battambang Province, Buddhism for Development runs home-based palliative care and psychosocial support projects for PLWHA in three communities. In addition, it has created the six week "Peace Development School" to educate monks about health care and HIV/AIDS along with community involvement, vocation-building efforts and agricultural extension methods. Of the more than 1,100 Buddhist monks who have completed the training, many have established HIV/ AIDS programs in their home villages, incorporating counseling and education on HIV/AIDS into their work. Graduates of the program have also initiated youth projects targeted at children affected by HIV/AIDS. Today, 320 children are attending primary, junior and senior high schools with scholarships from Buddhism for Development.

Kien Kes has also played a valuable role in HIV/AIDS care in Cambodia. The program, based at the Kien Kes Buddhist Temple, 30 km from Battambang Provincial Town, serves 70 villages. Its home-based care programs are supported by 26 volunteers, who assist health center and temple staff during home visits. The program aided 75 PLWHA households this year and has provided shelter and foster family placement for more than 900 orphans. In 2006 it plans to assist all PLWHA in target areas and to help up to 2,000 orphans and vulnerable children.

Incorporating religious leaders like Buddhist monks into HIV/AIDS work has been crucial for creating community acceptance of those with the disease. Using existing structures to create strong ties among indigenous temples, community groups, and other faith-based organizations has fostered a positive response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Cambodian society.

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