2014-02-28 15:35:35

Church and UN looking towards the end of the AIDS epidemic

(Vatican Radio) Churches and other faith-based organizations are the largest single group providing health care services for people living with the HIV virus. At a two day conference held here in Rome this week, UN officials recognized the crucial work of the Catholic Church and called for closer cooperation to work towards the end of the AIDS epidemic.

Philippa Hitchen takes a closer look

The meeting, jointly organized by UNAIDS and the global Catholic aid and development confederation, Caritas Internationalis, concluded on February 26th with a call to faith-based groups to step up efforts to provide holistic care and support for all those affected by the once fatal disease.
Brazilian doctor Luiz Loures is UN assistant secretary general and deputy executive director of UNAIDS. He shares the message he brought to Catholics and other faith based groups taking part in the conference…..

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“We can (get) to the end of the epidemic of AIDS, based on the progress so far, but more than ever we need the faith based organisations and mainly the Catholic organisations to help us to get there…..

Less than 10 years ago there was one single country in the south that was treating AIDS – that was Brazil. There was no treatment in Africa, no treatment in Asia….today there are 10 million people on the treatment, mainly in Africa, with drastic reductions in terms of the number of deaths…this progress allows us to speak of the end of AIDS as a realistic target, but we also live a contradiction today – the access to progress, to treatment and prevention services is not the same to everybody…out biggest challenge today is discrimination…….”

Key areas for further cooperation between the Churches and international organisations include a focus on greater testing and treatment for children, as well as finding ways to coordinate services and demonstrate the impact of the work of faith based communities. One of the main organisers of the Rome meeting was Fr Bob Vitillo, special advisor on HIV-AIDS for Caritas Internationalis….

"Evidence shows that people who are on treatment are 96% less likely to transmit the virus to their intimate sexual partners, their spouses….eventually we’ll get to a number – it won’t be zero people who are infected but it’ll be so small that it will no longer be the global threat it has been for more than the last 30 years…

We have a target of getting 15 million people on treatment by 2015….the push is to bet people on treatment as early as possible…..and we hope that more faith based organisations will get involved and increase the work that we’re doing….

There’s still a lot of stigmatization and discrimination …but again that’s why we need organisations like the Church to speak out against discrimination, to make it clear that we want to reach out to help people decide to be tested and get treatment as soon as possible…”

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