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International News

India's Catholic Church Issues Guidelines for Treating HIV/AIDS Victims

January 14, 2004

Responding to a priest's refusal for a church cemetery burial of a parishioner who died of AIDS, the Roman Catholic Church in India's southern state of Kerala is asking its members to show compassion toward those with HIV/AIDS. In a circular issued Sunday to parish priests, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil urged his clergy and members to show love, mercy, and respect to parishioners with HIV/AIDS.

Vithayathil said AIDS patients should not be discriminated against in matters of basic church rites: "When we deal with AIDS patients, we should be responsible church members, showing to them the true Christian love and social justice," said the circular.

Vithayathil's first circular on AIDS followed a December incident in which a priest refused to allow the church cemetery burial of a truck driver who had died of AIDS, said the Rev. Paul Thelakat, a church spokesperson. The Rev. George Payapilli ordered that the 38-year-old parishioner, identified only as "James," be buried in a pit dug outside the cemetery, but still within the church complex in the Elavoor parish, north of Kerala's commercial hub of Cochin.

In the five-page circular, the cardinal said priests should provide proper last sacraments and burial to those who die of AIDS. He reminded priests and others who handle their bodies to take precautions rather than show discrimination. The circular said the most common ways for HIV to spread are through sexual contact, needle sharing, or mother-to-child transmission before or during birth or through breast-feeding.

Vithayathil said the clergy could best prevent HIV/AIDS by teaching people to keep strict morality in sex and live faithfully in marriage.

Back to other news for January 14, 2004

Adapted from:
Associated Press
01.12.04; V.M. Thomas

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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