2016-04-12 16:52:00

Caritas: reaching out to children living with HIV/Aids

(Vatican Radio) Caritas Internationalis’ special advisor on HIV/Aids said tens of thousands of HIV positive children are dying each year because of a lack of access to antiretroviral treatment. An estimated 3.2 million children are living with HIV but only a third of those children are diagnosed and put on antiretroviral treatment to keep them healthy.

Father Bob Vitillo was among the participants at a meeting of faith-based groups in Rome discussing how to strengthen their engagement in diagnosing and treating children living with HIV, the virus that causes Aids.  Caritas has joined efforts with UNAIDS, the U.S. President’s Plan for Aids relief (PEPAR) and the Vatican’s Paediatric Hospital, Bambino Gesù to plan a roadmap for achieving this aim.


Listen to the interview with Father Bob Vitillo, Special Advisor on HIV/Aids for Caritas Internationalis:

Speaking with Susy Hodges, Father Vitillo explained how we need to find the children who could have been exposed to the virus through their mothers and test them as soon as possible so they can begin treatment. He said it’s a difficult process because it is more complicated to test very young babies  than it is adults as sometime the results are not accurate and need to be repeated.

“Life-saving treatment”

Father Vitillo reminded his listeners that the antiretroviral treatment is vital to help keep these babies  alive. 

“A third of them (babies who are living with HIV) die before their first birthday if they’re not on the treatment and half of them die before their second birthday, so it is life-saving.”  

Asked for the reasons why two thirds of children with HIV do not receive this life-saving treatment, Father Vitillo explained that it’s a twin problem of lack of funds in poor countries and the distance from health centres. He said governments in many of these poor sub-Saharan countries “do not have the money to buy all the antiretroviral treatments” whose cost is often way over their health budgets.  

When it comes to the issue of distance and accessibility, Father Vitillo explained how surveys have shown that a greater decentralization of health services often leads to “a much better adherence” in terms of following the treatment as local community health service workers can play a more effective role here than staff at a distant hospital.     

All the contents on this site are copyrighted ©.