Partners Unite to Fight Aids, Family Violence in Romania

 

His Beatitude Patriarch Teoctist (second from left) attends the April 19 signing ceremony for the launching of an AIDS prevention project by the Romanian Orthodox Church and International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). With him are (from left) U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Thomas Delare, Romanian Minister of Education Mircea Miclea, and IOCC Director of Operations Samir Ishak.

Bucharest, Romania (April 20, 2005) — Romanians and Americans have joined forces in an ambitious partnership to fight HIV/AIDS and family violence in Romania, a country that faces an alarmingly high level of HIV-positive teen-agers.

The project brings together the Romanian Orthodox Church, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Romanian Ministry of Education.

On Tuesday, April 19, His Beatitude Patriarch Teoctist of the Romanian Orthodox Church and representatives of the other organizations met at the Patriarchal Palace in Bucharest to launch the three-year initiative, which will spread a faith-based message of AIDS prevention and nondiscrimination throughout Romania.

Seventy percent of Romanians living with HIV/AIDS are teen-agers. Those who are orphans and living in state care will have to fend for themselves once they turn 18, and many face the grim prospect of a life of poverty and unemployment.

Against this setting for a public health crisis, the Romanian Orthodox Church and IOCC offer the prospect of hope and social change.

The Church and IOCC will work together to empower young people and adults with better AIDS awareness and methods of prevention by adding social and health sessions to religion courses, and by training clergy and lay people to more effectively care for and assist people living with HIV/AIDS.

The $5.4 million project includes $2 million in support from USAID and $3.4 million in support from the Romanian Orthodox Church, IOCC and the Ministry of Education. IOCC’s contribution was bolstered by the generous support of Romanian Orthodox Christians in North America.

“Working closely together with the Romanian Orthodox Church, we seek to awaken a new sense of hope and promise among Romanians so that they can effectively deal with the scourge of HIV/AIDS and prevent its further spread,” said IOCC Executive Director Constantine M. Triantafilou. “We also want to motivate a more compassionate response toward people living with HIV/AIDS and victims of family violence.”

About 2,600 Church personnel, including priests and religion teachers, in 13 dioceses (15 counties) will receive instruction in AIDS awareness and family violence prevention, as well as training in counseling techniques and in mobilizing their own parish communities on behalf of the victims.

Community-based services will be implemented through a series of grassroots initiatives, half of them youth-led and for teen-agers, and another half through concerned parishioners organized into Philanthropic Committees.

Through educational classes and Youth Initiative Clubs, the project will reach nearly 350,000 young people with a faith-based message of abstinence and faithfulness to one partner, as well as millions of other Romanians, whether churchgoers or not, through a public education and media campaign. These initiatives will deliver a message of compassion and non-discrimination to help overcome the social stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS.

“Because of its unique place in Romanian society, the Church can play a pivotal role in spreading knowledge about HIV/AIDS and can provide the moral leadership necessary for a more effective response to this growing problem,” Triantafilou said.

Information about AIDS is largely unavailable in rural areas of Romania, and public knowledge of the benefits of early detection, as well as information about treatment options, is all too often lacking, Triantafilou said.

Among those attending the April 19 ceremony were His Beatitude Patriarch Teoctist; U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Thomas Delare; USAID-Romania Mission Director Rodger D. Garner; Romanian Minister of Education Mircea Miclea; Merce Gasco, M.D., of the John Snow Institute, a technical assistance partner; IOCC officials; and other Church and civic leaders.

IOCC has been active in Romania since 2000, when it began providing emergency relief to victims of seasonal flooding. Since then, IOCC has helped open a multi-purpose youth center in Bistrita, implemented a welfare reform program to strengthen families and prevent child abandonment in southwest Romania, and provided assistance to flood victims working to rebuild their homes.

Founded in 1992, IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). To learn more about its programs worldwide, please visit www.iocc.org.

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