Religion News in Brief Associated Press May 16, 2002 May 16, 2002

NEW YORK (AP)- The international humanitarian arm of the National Council of Churches is joining religious leaders in South Africa for a campaign to remove the stigma of AIDS.

Church World Service and the South African Council of Churches held concerts, prayer services and other events recently to end prejudice against those who suffer from the disease. Some estimates say 1 in 5 adults are infected.

Gary Thompson, an AIDS/HIV program director with the South African Council of Churches, said prejudice against people who have the virus has kept his country from fully addressing the public health crisis.

``The general climate is still one of denial and ostracism of those who make known that they are infected. In theological terms, it is sometimes expressed this way: 'AIDS is a sin that does not touch good people,''' Thompson said.

The council and Church World Service are encouraging religious leaders throughout South Africa to expand programs for people infected with HIV and to help stop discrimination against them.

The National Council of Churches represents 36 Protestant and Orthodox denominations.

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