Children were at the heart of the Caritas response to AIDS during 2009. Every day, 800 children die from AIDS-related diseases.
The Caritas ‘HAART for Children’ campaign urged governments and pharmaceutical firms to develop and provide ‘child-friendly’HIV and TB medicines as well as low-cost/low-technology testing methods to diagnose these infections.
HAART stands for “Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy”, the combination of medicines that help prolong the lives of both children and adults living with HIV. These medicines also help to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.
“We simply do not have enough paediatric formulations and dosages of antiretrovirals,” says Msgr Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS. “Without them, more than half of children with HIV die before their second birthday. This tragic situation can no longer be tolerated – Caritas and other Catholic Church-related organisations can turn the tide through this campaign.”
Organisations and Catholic religious orders in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania joined the campaign. Children themselves took part by writing letters to governments and drug companies, urging them to produce child-friendly medicines.
In October 2009, a Caritas AIDS conference in Rome brought together HIV and TB experts from across the world to discuss concerted action to save children’s lives through better treatment and diagnosis.
Caritas India launched their own national ‘HAART for Children’ campaign in November at a special event in New Delhi.