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It’s estimated that the Catholic Church provides as much as 25 percent of the care worldwide for people living with HIV, especially in developing countries.

It’s estimated that the Catholic Church provides as much as 25 percent of the care worldwide for people living with HIV, especially in developing countries. Credit: Caritas

Caritas and other organisations will look at progress made on HIV/AIDS during a three-day faith-based conference in Melbourne, Australia, ahead of the International AIDS Conference.

The meeting Stepping up the Pace: Remembering the Loaves and Fishes (18-20 July) will give faith-based organisations (FBOs) the opportunity to discuss best-practices, scientific developments, advocacy, ethical issues and funding.

Monsignor Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis special advisor on HIV/AIDS and Health will participate in both the pre-conference and the main conference. Speaking about the decrease in funding for FBOs working on HIV/AIDS, he said, ““We are continually being asked to ‘do more with less’.”

“The situation reminds us of one of Jesus’ most well-known miracles. The multiplication of the loaves and fishes is one of the few miracles that is recounted in all four gospels. In this parable, Jesus seems to give the disciples an impossible task: to feed a crowd of over 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fishes. The task overwhelms them, but Jesus shows them that it is possible.”

It’s estimated that the Catholic Church provides as much as 25 percent of the care worldwide for people living with HIV, especially in developing countries.

The faith-based pre-conference is sponsored by Caritas Internationalis, Caritas Australia, St Vincent’s Health Australia and the Catholic HIV and AIDS Network (CHAN). Other Caritas organisations from Ireland (Trocaire), the UK (CAFOD), the United States (Catholic Relief Services), as well as Caritas Myanmar, and a wide range of other Catholic Church-related organisations will take part.

“This conference is important for Australia and for the whole Pacific region, because it’s the first time an international HIV and AIDS conference of this size is being held in the region. It will provide an opportunity to promote behavioural change to prevent further spread of HIV in the region. There will certainly be challenges along the way but the spirituality of the “loaves and the fishes” guides us as we strive to ‘step up the pace’,” said Msgr Vitillo.

The Catholic pre-conference will include presentations from His Excellency Tim Fischer, the former Ambassador of Australia to the Holy See; Father Richard M. Bauer, MM; the Chair of CHAN; renowned scientists, including Professor Suzanne Crowe, the Associate Director of the Burnet Institute; Dr. David Cooper of St. Vincent’s Health System, Australia; Dr. Stefano Vella, of Italy; Dr. Julio Montaner, of British Columbia, Canada; as well as UNAIDS Regional Directors, Dr Steve Kraus, the Asia/Pacific Region, and Dr. Sheila Tlou, Eastern and Southern Africa Region. The event will be held at the Catholic Leadership Centre in East Melbourne.

For more information, please contact Michelle Hough at hough@caritas.va or call +39 06 6987 9752 or +39 334 2344 136.