By Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, President of Caritas Internationalis
Caritas Internationalis does not wait for the annual observance of World AIDS Day to fulfill its mandate of service with and for those living with and affected by the epidemic of HIV and AIDS. For more than twenty-five years, we have expressed the Church’s “tenderness and closeness” to them. Through our “direct action” in some 116 countries of the world, we have served as the “institutional witnesses of the Church’s love ” to such persons burdened by this threatening virus. HIV causes uncertainty and insecurity both for their own future, and that of their families, and could result in serious illness and death.
For the past several years, on this particular day of the year, the international community has been encouraged to reflect on the theme “Getting to zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths” on the occasion of World AIDS Day. The goal of Zero new HIV infections can be attained through responsible interpersonal relationships and individual behavior, including the limitation of sexual activity to a permanent and mutually faithful marriage between one man and one woman and the avoidance of all injecting drug use that has not been prescribed and supervised by health care professionals.
The goal of Zero AIDS-related deaths can be attained by early diagnosis and treatment of HIV infection, for which Caritas has advocated through its “HAART for Children Campaign ”. In recent years, much progress has been made, through international solidarity, to expand such treatment to some 10 million of people living in low- and middle-income countries. But this is not enough – an additional 18 million are in need of such life-saving medications. At the most recent meeting of the Catholic HIV and AIDS Network, for which Caritas serves as Secretariat, members reported some disturbing developments; some international donors have begun to decrease their support of such treatment programmes, citing new priorities, “donor fatigue”, the need for national governments in the high burden countries to assume more responsibility, and the global economic crisis. Let us never forget that, in today’s world, the human family is “growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.”
Regrettably, people living with or affected by HIV continue to face discrimination, stigma, and even violence. Caritas works toward acceptance and accompaniment of all people living with HIV. Let us pray, on this World AIDS Day 2013, that our Caritas patron, St. Martin de Porres, who spent his life in service of the most rejected and marginalized people in Latin America, will strengthen our own efforts in promoting a world without new infections of HIV, without deaths related to this disease, and without discrimination, since “[t]here is no human life that is more sacred than another, as there is no human life that is qualitatively more significant than another.”