In Nepal, Caritas provides group housing for women and children living with or affected by HIV and AIDS. At one shelter, women earn money by embroidering saris. Photo by Katie Orlinsky for Caritas


By Monsignor Bob Vitillo

How does our faith anchor and propel the Catholic Church’s response to people living with HIV? In addition to providing the best care, HIV programs implemented by Catholic organizations must also be sources of compassion and strength. Science and technology are vital to health care, but pastoral accompaniment can make a critical difference to people living with or affected by HIV.

This is one crucial message that Caritas will bring to the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. this month. The conference will be attended by overwhelming numbers (some 30,000 are expected!) of scientists, activists, researchers, people living with HIV and health care and social development professionals—everyone on the frontlines of the fight against AIDS.

The IAC has been a rallying point for these different communities to highlight, disseminate and advocate for a wide range of issues that cover scientific and medical breakthroughs, epidemiological trends, programmatic achievements, and partnership models, as well as much-needed compassion and care. Faith-based communities will be strongly represented — a demonstration of their involvement in the AIDS response – at both global and local levels.

In preparation for the International Conference itself, a Catholic Pre-conference on HIV and AIDS will be convened on 21 and 22 July on the campus of the Catholic University of America. Those engaged in Catholic Church-inspired HIV programs will have an opportunity to further ground their work in Catholic values and doctrine, share lessons learned, identify ongoing challenges, and become more acquainted with models and experiences from across the globe. One session will deal with how funding cutbacks are threatening the sustainability of our programs. Interactive workshops will also be held to facilitate experience-sharing. Each session will provide us with further inspiration as we stay faithful to our HIV-related mission during these challenging times.

Co-sponsors of the Catholic Pre-conference include: Caritas Internationalis, including its member organizations – Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services; Catholic HIV/AIDS Network (CHAN); the Catholic Medical Mission Board; and the Office of African American Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

All staff or volunteers engaged in Caritas or other Catholic programs, and planning to participate in the 19th International AIDS Conference, are invited to join us at the Catholic Pre-Conference to learn, share, and pray together.

Further details on the plenary sessions and workshops may be obtained from the attached documents; registration may be completed by connecting with the following web link:

http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/page.aspx?pid=2563

Catholic Pre-Conference Descriptions

Catholic Pre-Conference Timetable