By Francesca Matera, Volunteer at CI Delegation to the UN in Geneva

Members of Catholic Asia-Pacific Coalition on HIV and AIDS (CAPCHA) met for the third time, on 10-13 September, at the Camillian Pastoral Center in Bangkok, , to discuss and report on the development of the work of care and prevention carried out by Catholic organizations around Asia.

Fr. Giovanni Contarin, MI, Chairperson of Catholic Committee on HIV/AIDS in Thailand,  introduced this year’s theme, ‘Exchanging and Growing Together Within Catholic Values,’ with an inspiring welcome speech. Fr. Giovanni expressed appreciation for the work carried out by CAPCHA members and outlined the challenges that lay ahead. He mentioned, for example, the need to implement the United Nations Plan to address  Non-Communicable diseases and to join the global effort in the fight against HIV/AIDS by advancing the so-called ‘triple-zero’ target of no discrimination, no new HIV infections, and no deaths due to  AIDS-related illnesses.

Bishop Isao Kikuchi, President of Caritas Asia and Mr. Eleazar Gomes, Regional Coordinator, were among the meeting’s participants. Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis (CI) Special Advisor for HIV/AIDS and Head of CI delegation to the UN, reported on progress in the implementation of the Global Plan to Eliminate all New HIV Infections Among Children by 2015 and to Keep their Mothers Healthy. He also discussed ways for Catholic-inspired organizations to maintain fidelity to Catholic Church teaching while they engage in advocacy activities at the United Nations and in other inter-governmental organizations.

Upon his return in Geneva, Fr. Vitillo commented on the outcome of the event:“This gathering is an excellent example of South-South experience exchange. Participants face many challenges each day – many of them work in environments where the Catholic Church is in a small minority; “the poorest of the poor” are among those served by these organizations that are forced to struggle with lack of adequate and long-term funding. Yet they remain determined to accompany those living with or affected by HIV to fully develop their God-given human dignity.”

The delegates began the meeting with an field visit to HIV programs in the Bangkok area. One such site was the Human Foundation Development and Mercy Centre of Bangkok. This agency  was founded in 1972 to give the children of Klong Thoey, a slum suburb of Bangkok, a chance to exit poverty by improving education and fighting discrimination. The visitors were inspired by the human approach and the enthusiasm of staff and volunteers, One participant commented as follows, “Looking at the faces of the children, I could see they were very happy… Fr. Joe’s kindness and love enters the hearts of workers.”

CAPCHA was founded in May 2010 when the Catholic Committee on HIV/AIDS, supported by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand (CBCT), and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) organized a workshop at the Camillian Center to discuss the challenges of HIV and AIDS to the Catholic Church in Asia and Pacific. Some 100 people from 38 organisations of 15 Asian countries participated in that event. At the end of that first meeting, organisers and delegates agreed on the need for a more cooperative approach in the future.

A second meeting was held between 28 June and 1 July 2011.

Summary reports of the 2010 and 2011 events is available on CAPCHA’s website www.capcha.org