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When Mihret Mehari became pregnant of her daughter Dagmawit, she learned that she could prevent the transmission of HIV to her child by getting treatment. Baby Dagmawit had a definitive HIV test when she was 18 months old. She tested HIV negative. “That was the longest eighteen months of my life. I was so happy and relieved when I was told my baby is HIV Free.” Credit: Trocaire/Martha Welday.

When Mihret Mehari became pregnant of her daughter Dagmawit, she learned that she could prevent the transmission of HIV to her child by getting treatment. Baby Dagmawit had a definitive HIV test when she was 18 months old. She tested HIV negative. “That was the longest eighteen months of my life. I was so happy and relieved when I was told my baby is HIV Free.” Credit: Trocaire/Martha Welday.

Expanding access to HIV treatment globally and strengthening the role of faith-based organizations in the provision of such services will be the focus of a consultation, co-organized by Caritas Internationalis and UNAIDS, to be held at Hotel Il Cantico, in Rome, 25-26 February 2014.

“Ensuring 15 million people have access to high quality antiretroviral medicine and care by 2015 will be a critical milestone in reaching everyone in need,” said Dr Luiz Loures, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director Programme, UNAIDS.

“But we cannot do it alone. Historically, the services provided by the faith-based community have been a critical contribution to the millions of lives saved and they must be fully involved and engaged in efforts to expand access to HIV services. They have the capacity, the networks, the expertise and the experience. They will be one of our greatest allies in reaching people most in need.”

The consultation is related to UNAIDS’ Treatment 2015 initiative to reach at least 15 million people living with HIV with antiretroviral treatment. According to UNAIDS, at the end of 2012, 9.7 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy in resource-limited settings.

“The event recognises the extensive HIV treatment services as well as care and support programmes offered by Caritas, other Catholic Church-based organizations, and many other Christian faith traditions, particularly in areas with limited resources,” said Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Michel Roy. “We have a common goal to provide treatment to all people living with HIV who need it.”

Speakers include:

  • Dr Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director Programme, UNAIDS
  • Rev Phumzile Mabizela, Executive Director of the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV or AIDS (INERELA+)
  • Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria
  • His Excellency Kenneth Hackett, Ambassador of the USA to the Holy See
  • Dr Stefano Vella, MD, Director, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutic Research, Istituto Superiore di Sanità
  • Dr Julio Montaner, Director, British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, Providence Health Care
  • Dr Chewe Luo, Senior Advisor, UNICEF

Some 100 participants are expected, representing diverse Christian faith traditions, UNAIDS, Vatican offices, governments, the medical and scientific community, and the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. The consultation programme will facilitate sharing by participants of the comparative advantages and challenges faced in such treatment services sponsored by faith-based organizations.

The Consultation is supported by UNAIDS, Caritas Internationalis, UNITAID, the United States Embassy to the Holy See, and CUAMM- Doctors for Africa. Co-sponsors include Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, Catholic Relief Services, and Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.

Ambassador Kenneth Hackett said, “This consultation will bring key partners together to look at current efforts, the new financial architecture of the HIV response through the Global Fund, PEPFAR and UNITAID, and how we can be strategic, practical and collaborative in reaching our vision of millions more receiving the treatment and services they need for full and productive lives.”

Interviews
Participation in the Consultation is limited to invited guests, but media representatives who are interested in an interview please contact Michelle Hough at hough@caritas.va or call +39 334 2344 136+39 334 2344 136.