Keeping children HIV-free and keeping their mothers alive

By |24 July 2012|

By Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis Special Advisor on HIV/AIDS, and Ms. Aurorita Mendoza, Caritas Internationalis Volunteer in Geneva
One year following the launch of the Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive, two-thirds of the 22 focus countries are showing good progress towards meeting their targets.

UNAIDS timed its Progress Report on the Global Plan to coincide with the International AIDS Conference, held in Washington, DC, between 22-27 July 2012. UNAIDS reported an optimistic trend in the implementation of this comprehensive strategy to benefit pregnant women and children living with or affected by HIV and AIDS. The Plan was launched in June 2011, and aims to reduce the number of children infected by HIV by 90% by 2015 and to reduce pregnancy-related deaths among women with HIV by 50%.

Of the 22 countries, eight – Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, […]

HIV survivor: Catholic centres ‘won’t turn us away’

By |23 July 2012|

By Monsignor Bob Vitillo

“When I discovered I was HIV-positive, I was shocked and asked, ‘Why has God allowed this virus to maim and kill people? Does He still live in me? How?’”

Spoken by a person living with HIV, these are words that caregivers in Catholic Church-inspired organizations have to face wherever we work. In addition to making sure we’re getting lifesaving medicine to the far corners of the developing world, in addition to making sure people are taking the right doses at the right times, in addition to keeping up with the latest medical advances, we have to think about the whole person— including the spiritual dimension of the disease.

For the past few days, and for the rest of this week, I and my colleagues are focusing on all these questions at the 19th International Conference on HIV and AIDS in Washington, D.C.

Those of us associated with Catholic organizations […]

Compassion and Care for Nepal’s HIV patients

By |19 July 2012|

“My husband was getting sick a lot. He had tests—we went to different hospitals.” In the early 2000s, Manjula*, a woman raised in India but living in Nepal, was concerned that both her husband and small daughter were so often ill. “Then we went to a shaman. He said my husband got sick because he married a non-Nepali girl.”

Neither shamans nor hospital doctors could pinpoint what was really wrong. Manjula’s daughter Sonam* “always got sick—fever, dizziness , fainting,” Manjula remembers. “They thought it was things like pneumonia. She’d take antibiotics.”

After years of false leads, the family finally learned the truth: all three of them had HIV. “My husband was becoming thin as a stick,” says Manjula. “He died.”

Manjula was left alone with Sonam and a second daughter, a baby who was HIV-negative. “It was difficult to get the treatment in the village,” she says. “I didn’t know anything about […]

Faith Perspectives and AIDS

By |11 July 2012|

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 […]

Pope meets with UNAIDS chief

By |12 April 2012|

Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé was in Rome yesterday for meetings with Pope Benedict XVI, Holy See officials and Caritas Internationalis representatives. Sidibé asked Pope Benedict for his support in keeping children free from HIV. He said it’s an achievable goal and one which can be reached by 2015. “Millions of people around the world living with and affected by HIV are being supported by Catholic health care organisations,” said Mr Sidibé. “The full engagement of the Catholic Church in efforts to achieve zero new HIV infections among children is of paramount importance.” Listen to Philipp Hitchens interview with Michel Sidibé. UNAIDS and partners launched last year a Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive. The plan outlines a strategy which focuses particularly on the 22 countries that account for more than 90 percent of new HIV infections […]

  • Children who live in crowded or unhygienic places, such as refugee quarters, are more vulnerable to contracting tuberculosis (this photo does not indicate the HIV or TB status of the persons shown). Credits: Laura Sheahen/ CRS
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    Ten things you might not know about tuberculosis and children

Ten things you might not know about tuberculosis and children

By |23 March 2012|

Caritas calls on governments and pharmaceutical companies to develop “child-friendly” forms of medicines to fight both HIV and tuberculosis.
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    Caritas World AIDS Day message on right to health for mothers and children

Caritas World AIDS Day message on right to health for mothers and children

By |30 November 2011|

On World AIDS Day 2011, Caritas Internationalis says it is unjust that more than 800 children are dying each day of AIDS-related diseases. Such deaths continue to occur because these children have no access to early diagnosis of HIV or to child-friendly medicines to treat infection with this virus.

Reducing 9 out of 10 HIV infections in children

By |17 October 2011|

Caritas Internationalis and its HAART for Children campaign is playing a key role in the UNAIDS “Global Plan Towards The Elimination Of New HIV Infections Among Children By 2015 And Keeping Their Mothers Alive”.

HAART is an acronym for “High Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment”. In 2009, Caritas Internationalis launched its “HAART for Children Campaign” in order to promote greater access to pediatric HIV and TB testing and treatment and scale-up programmes to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV”.

At that time, 800 children were dying every day of AIDS related diseases. Their deaths were preventable. They were caused because the children had no access to early diagnosis of HIV or to child-friendly medicines to treat this deadly virus.

Approximately 90 percent of these children were infected in the womb, at birth, or through breastfeeding. Their HIV-positive mothers had no access to simple and inexpensive treatment that could prevent the transmission of the virus to […]

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    Imagine access to treatment, prevention, and care for HIV and AIDS: Caritas in action

Imagine access to treatment, prevention, and care for HIV and AIDS: Caritas in action

By |15 August 2011|

The prevalence of TB and HIV in Swaziland is one of the highest in the world. Caritas co-sponsored a Joint Mission to Swaziland with the World Health Organisation to lobby the government to decentralise treatment. Caritas wanted a bigger role to be given to grassroots, faith‑based organisations.

Philippines’ Catholic AIDS network

By |15 August 2011|

For a long time, the Philippines was considered to have a relatively low AIDS rate, but in recent years this has started to change. Nowadays HIV in the Philippines is described as “hidden and growing”.

At a recent forum in Tagaytay, the Philippines’ first Catholic HIV/AIDS network was launched. Caritas Internationalis’ special advisor on HIV and AIDS, Msgr Robert Vitillo, says the network comes at the right time. Caritas Philippines will play a key role in the AIDS network.

“One reason the network is so important is the shift in the pattern of the epidemic, which could grow more rapidly than in the past,” says Msgr Vitillo.

The Philippines has a large migrant population that leaves the country to look for work. There is a greater risk of HIV infection among migrant workers and the return of migrant workers to the Philippines is thought to have an impact on the country’s AIDS […]

Church delivers one quarter of worldwide care on HIV

By |15 August 2011|

“About a quarter of help provided worldwide for persons living with HIV infection is delivered by faith-based organisations“, said Msgr. Robert Vitillo. Last week, the leading AIDS-expert of Caritas Internationalis, delivered a speech to Austrian journalists and church representatives in the run-up to the 18th International AIDS Conference that will take place from July 18th to July 23rd in Vienna. The help provided includes medical care, nursing, information, HIV-tests, care for AIDS-orphans, psychological and spiritual support as well as prevention. Msgr. Vitillo expressed serious concern that faith-based aid programmes received only five percent of the Global Fund resources distributed worldwide while they deliver between 30% to 70% of health care in many developing countries. He also pointed out the precarious situation of HIV-positive children. In 2009, Caritas Internationalis initiated a campaign ‘HAART for Children’ in order to promote the development of additional “child friendly dosages and formulations of anti-retroviral […]

Keep up AIDS funding in economic crisis

By |2 August 2011|

Msgr Robert Vitillo, Caritas’ special advisor on HIV and AIDS talks to the UN’s Non-Governmental Liaison Committee.

NGLS: CARITAS Internationalis has been engaged in the response to HIV and AIDS since the late 1980s. What have been some of the major difficulties your organization has encountered over the years in this regard? Where has the most progress been made?
Msgr Vitillo: Early challenges faced by Caritas included the fear and denial experienced by many in the Church, governments, and civil society with regard to the reach and impact of HIV. More recently, the denial has given way to “compassion fatigue” and questions about whether or not AIDS should continue to receive such priority attention by the global community.

NGLS: Where and in what manner does CARITAS Internationalis carry out its work in relation to AIDS? How does it engage with other faith‐based networks, or civil society at large?

Msgr Vitillo: The members […]

HIV and AIDS

By |7 July 2011|

It makes Aslali the perfect spot for an outreach health centre for counselling and testing for HIV: in its first month alone, 50 truckers came for ward. As word spreads, the project aims for 6,000 a year. The centre is a pioneering private-public partnership supported by Caritas India, and is part of its creative work around HIV/AIDS.

HAART for Children campaign on HIV and AIDS

By |7 July 2011|

Children are the focus of one of Caritas Internationalis’ major campaigns: HAART for Children. HAART stands for Highly Active Anti- Retroviral Therapy. Caritas Internationalis presses governments and pharmaceutical companies to develop “child-friendly” forms of medicines and testing. Caritas Australia directly asked the pharmaceutical giant Roche to do its part in facilitating access to medication to fight HIV and the tuberculosis that so often accompanies it. Caritas turned children themselves into advocates for other children with email postcards to spread the message that better paediatric drugs are urgently needed.

Members of Caritas Austria’s Young Caritas group also became child advocates by presenting over 20,000 signatures they had collected to their government at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna in July. Seventeen-year-old Lena Neururer said, “First I used a smile to get people to sign, then second I used the facts and figures.”

The signatures demanded that the Austrian government continue to fund […]

Looking back and moving forward on HIV and AIDS

By |9 June 2011|

By Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis, at the High Level Meeting on AIDS, UN Headquarters

It was not so difficult to wake up early in New York City since the streets there live up to their reputation of “never sleeping” – so I found myself out of my hotel and waiting outside the chain-locked gates of UN headquarters before 7am on 08 June 2011. I wanted to get a “head start” on the cue to register for the UN High Level Meeting on AIDS. Thus I was among the first people processed that day and, with my badge securely fastened around my neck, I proceeded to the section for non-governmental organisation observers, having obtained my ticket for a seat in this section even before 7AM! Then once again, I had to wait for the programme to start at 9AM. As one who enjoys “people watching”, especially in international […]

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