Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé. Photo: Wiki Commons

Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé was in Rome yesterday for meetings with Pope Benedict XVI, Holy See officials and Caritas Internationalis representatives. Sidibé asked Pope Benedict for his support in keeping children free from HIV. He said it’s an achievable goal and one which can be reached by 2015.

“Millions of people around the world living with and affected by HIV are being supported by Catholic health care organisations,” said Mr Sidibé. “The full engagement of the Catholic Church in efforts to achieve zero new HIV infections among children is of paramount importance.”

Listen to Philipp Hitchens interview with Michel Sidibé.

UNAIDS and partners launched last year a Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive. The plan outlines a strategy which focuses particularly on the 22 countries that account for more than 90 percent of new HIV infections in children world-wide.

Sidibé also met with Michel Roy, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, which serves as one of the civil society organisations represented on the steering committee of the Global Plan to eliminate new HIV infections in children.

Roy said, “The Caritas ‘HAART for Children’ campaign shares a similar goal by promoting greater uptake of prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmess and by assuring that children living with HIV, as well as their mothers, have access to early diagnosis and treatment.”

Sidibé met with Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Speaking on the plan to eliminate new HIV infections in children Cardinal Turkson said, “With the medical technology readily available, making sure that children are born free of HIV-infection is a goal the human family can and should achieve, without delay, and would contribute to the human, economic and social development of the countries involved.”

Faith-based organisations are instrumental in providing HIV related prevention, treatment care and support to people living with and affected by HIV. The World Health Organisation has estimated that faith-based groups provide between 30% and 70% of all health care in Africa. UNAIDS established a strategic framework in 2009 to strengthen partnerships between UNAIDS and faith based organisations.

Source UNAIDS