Priest’s frontline report for World Aids Day

03 Dec 2008

By The Record

‘Our workers show others we’re not afraid of visiting those with HIV/AIDS,’ visiting priest tells Caritas breakfast.                     

Spreading the message: Fr James Noonan, a US Maryknoll missionary, speaks at the Caritas breakfast on 26 November about the work he and other Church workers carry out assisting those suffering from the marginalisation of HIV/AIDS in countries like Cambodia.

By Robert Hiini
Caritas Australia marked World Aids Day here in Perth with a breakfast attended by 60 guests and featuring AIDS ministry veteran, Fr Jim Noonan of the Maryknoll Catholic Mission Movement in the US.
Co-sponsored by St John of God Health, the breakfast took place on Wednesday 26 November in the week leading up to the official day on 1 December.
Fr Noonan has spent many years caring for children and families with HIV and AIDS in Cambodia – a country where 13,000 AIDS cases are diagnosed every year.
The Cambodian HIV/AIDS epidemic remains the largest in Asia, with infection rates among adults hovering around 1 per cent of the population.
The number of people affected as a proportion of the population is ten times that of Australia.
He spoke about the challenges and successes of Bridges of Hope and Little Sprouts, two-life enhancing programs dedicated to caring for adults and children living with HIV/AIDS.
The Little Sprouts program offers much needed support to ensure children living with HIV/AIDS have access to clinical consultations, schools and proper nutrition.
Little Sprouts also tries to ensure healthy foster care arrangements and that as far as possible, children remain with families and communities.
Fr Noonan says that Australians and Caritas Australia “have been very faithful contributors” to Cambodia since the time of the Vietnam War.
He says that Caritas Australia made it possible for Maryknoll to setup in Cambodia, helping them to get their first temporary visas back in 1989.
He says that another central part of their work is to build HIV/AIDS awareness, dispelling myths about the disease and helping to break down associated stigma – a service that is much in demand from health centres across the country.
“We have workers who visit sick people once a month and their neighbours see that we are not afraid of people suffering from this disease and they start to believe the truth that AIDS can only be transferred through blood,” Fr Noonan said.
Fr Noonan says that all countries and organisations need to stay vigilant in educating the local populace about HIV/AIDS and its prevention.
“If we face the problem and show people the way to make the situation more healthy then you’re going to be giving life to people who would otherwise be caught up in this vicious cycle.”