Although relatively small in size, the Church of North India is making a major effort to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the world’s second-largest country, said two church leaders who recently visited the Presbyterian Center in Louisville.

“India is a vast country with a population of more than 1 billion, and many people in our rural areas have little knowledge of HIV/AIDS,” said the Most Rev. Purely Lyngdoh, moderator of the CNI and bishop of the Diocese of North East India.

India has the third-highest number of reported cases of HIV/AIDS in the world, ranking behind South Africa and Nigeria.
The CNI’s initiatives to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and educate people about prevention measures are consistent with the church’s “holistic mission,” Lyngdoh said. “Our health board is doing a tremendous outreach through the schools, and our congregations are also doing a great job.”

The CNI, with a membership of 1.5 million, constitutes a tiny percentage of the population. However, its high-quality hospitals and schools have given the church substantial influence, said the Rt. Rev. Philip P. Marandi, the CNI’s deputy moderator and bishop of the Diocese of Patna. The vast majority of the people served by the schools and hospitals are non-Christians.

“In the areas of education and health care, everybody acknowledges the contributions of the Christian churches,” Marandi said. “They know that the churches care for the welfare of the whole country.”

The HIV/AIDS awareness program teaches how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and how the disease can be avoided. Both abstinence and condom use are discussed. Christian schools and churches often join other organizations in sponsoring community rallies that draw thousands of people.

Frequently a celebrity is invited to address the crowd, and presentations often include the use of drama.

“It’s a very powerful medium for the common people,” Miranda said.

While there’s still much work to be done, Lyngdoh said the program faces financial challenges.

“The AIDS awareness program is slowing down because of a lack of funds,” he said. “For us to take the message to the grassroots level (the rural areas), we need more money.”

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a longtime partner of the CNI, supports the church’s health ministries through gifts it receives for Extra Commitment Opportunity E862363.