Korea’s Responses to AIDS
Tonight’s speaker is uniquely well placed to tell us about the history of AIDS in Korea and the varying responses to it here. She will begin with a general introduction to HIV/AIDS, focusing on how it is spread, who the most vulnerable people are. Then she will survey the situation regarding HIV/AIDS in Korea, both among Korean people and among foreigners. A major issue everywhere concerns the availability of treatment, once a person has been found to be infected with the HIV virus. There are treatments now available that can prolong life for those infected almost indefinitely, but they must be begun at an early stage. Very often, those most at risk avoid being tested and by the time they are diagnosed they have developed full-blown AIDS and it is too late to do much for them. Sister Miriam has played a leading role in developing new forms of Christian ministry for PLWHA (people living with HIV/AIDS) and she will speak of her work in establishing shelters for people who have lost their jobs and been rejected by their families and communities because they have HIV/AIDS. Recently, mirroring what is happening in many countries, she has helped establish the Korean Interfaith Network on HIV/AIDS, which brings together individuals and groups belonging to various religious traditions who are now devoting themselves to caring for PLWHA.
Sister Miriam belongs to the Missionary Sisters of Saint Columban. She is a qualified nurse and midwife, has a Midwife Teacher's Diploma, and a Masters in Pastoral care. In 1971 she arrived in Korea. and first worked at St. Columban's Hospital, in Mokpo, where she was Nursing Supervisor for 4 years, then Matron for 4 years. In 1979 she established the Midwifery School for Nurses in St. Columban's Hospital. Moving the Seoul, in 1988 she began a ministry to the prostituted women working in Miari. In 1995 she was a founding member of the Korean Catholic HIV/AIDS Association, which in 2009 was incorporated under the name Korean Catholic Red Ribbon. Since 2009 she has been a board member of Red Ribbon. In 1997 she set up Korea’s first shelter for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). In 2011 she was a founding member of KINHA (Korean Interfaith Network on HIV/AIDS), of which she is currently the Chairperson. She is also Director of the New Light Community Shelter for PLWHA.