Caritas says mothers living with HIV in poor countries face anguish. Caritas says the risks to the health of their children are massive and their lives may be painfully short. And yet, the suffering and deaths of these children are preventable.
“Children and women need access to timely diagnosis of HIV and TB and to appropriate treatment and care. We appeal to governments, pharmaceutical companies, and all people of good will to make this possible,” said Caritas Internationalis Special Advisor for HIV and AIDS, Rev. Msgr. Fr Robert Vitillo.
Over 370,000 infants were newly infected with HIV in 2009, mainly through mother-to-child transmission. Such infections can occur during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding. Access to a simple course of anti-retroviral medication could prevent these infections, yet 260,000 children died of AIDS-related illnesses that same year.
Caritas’ “HAART* for Children” campaign was launched on International Women Day 8 March 2009. It urges governments and pharmaceutical firms to boost commitment to diagnosis, treatment and care for women and children living with HV or HIV/TB co-infection
Recent years have seen progress in the production of paediactric medicines suitable to treat children living in poor countries. As a result, twenty-four percent fewer children were infected with HIV between 2004 and 2009 and 19 percent fewer died during this period.
Advocacy by Caritas and other NGOs has resulted in more attention to the needs of mothers and children living with HIV, especially on the part of the international development agencies. UNAIDS, the Joint Programme of the United Nations coordinating the global response to HIV/AIDS, has set a strategic goal to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and to halve the number of AIDS-related deaths among mothers, by 2015.
Caritas also encourages pharmaceutical companies to invest more in research and development of new testing methods and medicines.
This year and next, Caritas will focus more on encouraging the development of additional medications that can treat HIV-infected infants and are adapted for use in poor settings. It also will assess the impact of funding cutbacks on HIV care, treatment, and support.
Women are blessed with the ability to give life, and they desperately want such life to flourish. Children have the right for their lives and health to be protected. Caritas will continue working to promote the life and dignity of all persons, but especially of women and children living with HIV or TB.
*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.