Pacific leaders and churches must return homosexuals to their traditional accepted place in society and encourage legislation for equal human rights for gay men and other minorities at risk of contracting HIV, according to the most senior Pacific politician to attend the Pan Pacific HIV/AIDS Conference. Speaking at the closing session of the four day Auckland conference, the Speaker of Fiji's House of Representatives, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, said "we cannot afford to lose the war against HIV" and challenged Pacific churches to change their attitudes to homosexuality and condoms, the front line in HIV infection prevention. Ratu Epeli particularly mentioned the Catholic church's resistance to condoms as an example of "an attitude I cannot agree with... before our churches can save souls they must save lives," he stated. Ratu Epeli reminded church leaders, politicians and health authorities that HIV already has a “foothold” in Pacific nations. “HIV threatens the socioeconomic development of the region and has the potential to wipe out whole communities and cultures,” Ratu Epeli warned and highlighted the massive rates of infection and death in southern and sub-saharan Africa. But he countered that bleak outlook with the observation that New Zealand's approach to fighting HIV, including decriminalising homosexuality, legislating for human rights and promotion of condom use, was a successful example Pacific nations should follow. Speaking to GayNZ.com after his forceful address he reiterated his desire to see men who have sex with men accorded respect and equal human rights within Pacific Island societies. "Before colonisation and the arrival of repressive attitudes, homosexuals were a natural and accepted part of many Pacific societies... we need to return to that traditional cultural inclusiveness," he said.
Credit: GayNZ.com News Staff
First published: Saturday, 29th October 2005 - 12:00pm
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