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Caritas and UN step up efforts to eliminate HIV-AIDS

(Vatican Radio) The United Nations, the Catholic Church and other faith based organisations have pledged to work more closely together to try and bring an end to the global AIDS epidemic. At an international conference here in Rome this past week, UNAIDS and other agencies leading the fight against the disease recognized that Churches provide up to 50% of all HIV-AIDS community care in some countries. Participants at the two day meeting also noted that faith based groups offer a unique combination of access to life saving drugs and care for the dignity of the individual, which other medical or scientific partners cannot provide.

Jointly organised by UNAIDS and the global Catholic aid and development confederation Caritas Internationalis, the conference focused on ways of expanding access to life saving treatment, which has also been proving effective in stopping the spread of the HIV virus.
Michael Roy is secretary general of Caritas Internationalis. He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the objectives of the meeting and the challenges facing all those striving to eliminate the once-fatal disease…..

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The real objective is to go beyond what we’ve been doing up to now as Church based organisations, beyond Caritas there are a number of other organisations which we help coordinate the response to HIV-AIDS…with UNAIDS, with whom we signed a memorandum of understanding, I think 7 years ago, a lot has been done…….

Over 50% of the work with HIV-AIDS patients is being done by the Church organisations and this meeting has the objective to double or multiply the engagement of both organisations so that we can come to an end with HIV-AIDS – we know it is possible, there are special antiretroviral treatments that stop the illness and prevent it as well, so the issue is money in the end and reaching out to people, especially the poorest….but we know we can come to an end with this disease so we must do it….

It is a success story…it’s true that we don’t agree on everything, we don’t have the same vision necessarily of life as a number of UN organisations…..but since the response is really positive, why should they not work with the Church? There have been issues, in the US for instance, access to PEPFAR has become difficult for Catholic organisations because of the orientations given by the US administration and that is a shame, because the reality is that church organisations are doing the most to help AIDS patients…

The difference is really made by communities themselves, not by what is decided at upper levels of organisations and the big challenge for the post-2015 agenda is to go from the bottom up and not – like the MDGs – from top down, which did not succeed. Si it’s really when communities engage – and there the Churches are very good – that life can change and poverty can be challenged and transformed…”