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HIV/AIDS Care: Help from Buddhist Leaders Goes a Long Way
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HIV/AIDS Care: Help from Buddhist Leaders Goes a Long Way

In cooperation with UNICEF, monks in Northern Thailand are implementing sustainable, low-cost, community-based programs that help local people whose lives have been affected by HIV and AIDS. 

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Segment 1

VOICEOVER
In the Buddhist temple of Hua Rin, in Northern Thailand, life follows a pattern largely unchanged by time. After morning chants, the monks take care of daily chores. Then they make the rounds to collect alms from the faithful. But in the past few months, this community -- like others in Thailand -- has had to cope with the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS. Thailand's infection rate has now stabilized, but almost three-quarters of a million people are living with the disease here, and hundreds of thousands have died from it. This boy, Tiew, lost both his parents to AIDS. He is now being cared for by the monks at the Hua Rin temple. It's just one example of what UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund, calls the "Buddhist leadership initiative": working with government and community groups to encourage religious leaders to carry out low-cost, sustainable prevention and care activities at the local level. UNICEF Representative Prue Brothwick:
PRUE BROTHWICK
Perhaps the best-known part of Buddhist teaching is the message of compassion, compassion for all living things. And I think that's been an important foundation that monks have used and built upon in their activities. And one of the ways they've sought to show compassion is by providing a good example themselves to the community. But also by giving really practical help and assistance.
VOICEOVER
For this family, practical help means a small grant so that a child whose father has died from AIDS can attend school. For another family in which the main income earner has died of AIDS, it's a loan to allow them to buy a new pig. Practical help also takes the form of assistance to people living with the disease, through community support groups and vocational training that helps villagers stay active and productive after testing positive for HIV. Arriya Armad used to work in the rice fields but couldn't keep up the hard physical work in the hot sun once she became HIV positive. With the help of the monks, the temple grounds are now used for workshops that teach women like her how to sew robes and other items of clothing that can be sold in Japan.
ARRIYA ARMAD
My heart has opened and I now have friends who share my condition, and more people who understand me. I have more income now, a job, and better skills and knowledge. I never knew how to sew a shirt before, but now I do.
VOICEOVER
Spearheading these efforts to help the community cope with the HIV/AIDS crisis is the head of Hua Rin temple, Luang Pi Deng.
LUANG PI DENG
I think that the work we've done is making the community happy. In Buddhism, at some level, the fact that we have helped relieve the people of their suffering, can be counted as a success.
VOICEOVER
Working with such trusted leaders gives UNICEF a chance to help build a better future for AIDS-affected children like Tiew. It's an important lesson that's now also being applied to other Buddhist communities in the region. This report was prepared by Michele Zaccheo for the United Nations.