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Samoa: Church leaders and fa

Thu 19 Jul 2007 In: International News

A meeting between Samoa's National Council of Churches and the Fa'afafine Association to discuss HIV/AIDS-related issues, taking place in Apia this week, is a significant step forward for human rights, says the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. Churches in the Pacific region have struggled with issues relating to HIV/AIDS, sexual orientation and gender identity, which has hampered efforts in talking openly about the virus and the communities most at risk of infection, says NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier. “This meeting is a recognition of the equal human rights of fa'afafine, and the need to challenge the stigma and discrimination they have to live with if HIV prevention programmes are to reach those most vulnerable in society.” Silipa Take, Health Promoter for NZAF's Pacific People's Project, says the church is the focal point of most community gatherings and families. “The importance of church involvement and coming on board with the Fa'afafine Association is a major step forward. The fa'afafine communities are part of the Samoan family.” As well as creating a more supportive environment for fa'afafine in Samoa, Take says it will be a great boost for the work done by the Pacific Peoples Project in New Zealand. “In New Zealand, most fa'afafine do attend churches with their families. By having the National Council of Churches involved in the fight against HIV in Samoa, it will create more awareness, visibility and discussions amongst the Samoan communities who attend these churches about the virus, as well as fa'afafine issues.” NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier says HIV in the Pacific is “everyone's challenge. NZAF is a proud partner of the Samoan AIDS Foundation in the work they do for both fa'afafine and men who have sex with men, communities at high risk for becoming infected with HIV.”     Ref: NZAF (m)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Thursday, 19th July 2007 - 9:31pm

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