December 5, 2008

Caritas Rome building bridges in understanding AIDS

By |5 December 2008|

On 5th December 2008, Caritas Romana celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its AIDS “family houses”. Apart from providing support to people living with AIDS, Caritas Romana seeks to build understanding and knowledge among the community.   Nestled in the woods of a Rome park are Caritas Romana’s “family houses” for people living with AIDS. Don Luigi Di Liegro, founder of Caritas Romana, had to battle the reservations of the local community before the Villa Glori site could be used to house people with AIDS. It was 1988, the disease was relatively new and people were afraid that the upper-crust neighbourhood would be brought down by waves of drug addicts seeking refuge. Massimo Raimondi, who is in charge of the family houses today says that despite 25 years of information, people are still afraid to get close to people living with AIDS. “People who have AIDS have been painted as gay, or drug addicts, or people [...]

August 16, 2008

Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS for Caritas Internationalis

By |16 August 2008|

Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo is Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS for Caritas Internationalis as well as being Head of the International Delegation in Geneva. On behalf of Caritas and other international Catholic organisations, Fr Vitillo spearheads advocacy that promotes a more just and practical response to the pandemic by governments, churches and international agencies. We asked him some questions. Q: When did you become involved in HIV and AIDS? Fr. Vitillo: I first started to work on HIV and AIDS in 1987 when Caritas Internationalis decided to focus on the pandemic as a priority area. Q: That’s a long time. How did your work start at the beginning? Fr. Vitillo: At first, the partnering task was among the Caritas members. A strategic and ongoing programme of education about HIV and AIDS was undertaken through global, regional, national and local seminars. Caritas has now reached far beyond its usual partners in order to promote an effective response [...]

Children and HIV: What needs to be done?

By |16 August 2008|

By Francesca Merico The vast majority of the children who will die this year from AIDS-related illnesses would be alive if they could receive the treatment they needed. Antiretroviral medications (ARVs) make the difference between life and death for 800,000 children under the age of 15 living with HIV. However, if children living with HIV cannot access treatment that is appropriate to their needs, they are subjected to unnecessary suffering and die faster than do adults living with this virus. Despite evidence that treatment is very successful in children living with HIV, there remain significant obstacles to paediatric ARV scale-up, and 1,000 children below the age of 15 die of AIDS-related illnesses every day. In order to identify HIV-positive children, it is crucial to identify and to take care of HIV-positive pregnant women. Ninety percent of the 2.5 million children now living with HIV became infected through mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). MTCT can be reduced to [...]

Hunger and HIV

By |16 August 2008|

"People know that HIV will kill them within months, but hunger might kill them by the end of the week," said Dr John Mundi Amolo as he makes his tour of the HIV and AIDS patients admitted to Mutomo Hospital in Kenya. "If someone has only 50 bob [35 pence], then they would rather buy food than get drugs for their HIV. They have no choice." Mutomo Hospital is in the Kitui district, which has been hit hard by years of drought. Rivers have dried up, crops destroyed, and the people worn down by hunger. Among the most affected have been those with HIV and AIDS. Although life-saving drugs are cheap and available, the small food and medical costs necessary to be able to take them are often too much. "The anti-AIDS drugs don't work well without good nutrition," said the doctor. "People have not been eating day after day. Taking [...]

Stigma and Exclusion

By |15 August 2008|

When Natalya, a 28-year-old woman from Ukraine, learned she was HIV-positive, she said her father threw her out of the house. “He told me to go live with my drug addict boyfriend,” she said. “My church told me I was a bad person. It was terrible. I didn’t know where to go.” She was just 21 at the time and pregnant with her first child, who was born without the virus. Her partner, an injecting drug user, has since died of AIDS. Counselling is a crucial element in the HIV response. Without it, people may not know what to do or how to change their behaviour to protect themselves and to avoid infecting others. They may also despair if they have no outlet for dealing with the emotional impact of living with the virus. In 2006, Caritas Spes of the Roman Catholic Church opened a centre in Kiev to provide psychological support [...]

From despair to hope in Cambodia

By |15 August 2008|

When Caritas Cambodia found Kim Haeng in a shack in Siam Reap she was living more like an animal than a person. The 20 year-old was skeletal unwashed, eating food from the floor, and unable to speak. Her parents died when she was five and a relative sold her to a brothel. She was a sex worker for 15 years until she became too ill to work and the brothel owner turned her out with nothing. Caritas staff first thought she had suffered such trauma that she had withdrawn from the world forever. But they did not give up hope. She received anti-AIDS therapy and her health started to return. She got counselling. It was a long road, with relapses including a return to prostitution, but she broke out of her psychological prison. Now a beautiful confident young woman, she is an active volunteer, speaking out in the community for those people living [...]

Church in India leads campaign on AIDS

By |15 August 2008|

“[Stigma] is the single most important obstacle in the treatment and care of HIV/AIDS patients, since the very beginning … Seeing us touch, clean and treat the patient takes away fear from the family members … “ - Fr. Tomy of Bel Air Sanatorium and Hospital in Panchagani, India Working to shatter the myths and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS is just one of the ways in which the Catholic Church in India is playing a leadership role in the fight against the disease, according to a recent report. Discrimination against people affected by HIV/AIDS is a widespread problem in India, where between 2 to 3.1 million people out of a population of 1.1 billion are thought to be living with HIV (1). Edited by Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, the “Best Practice Report on a Concerted Faith-Based Initiative – Scaling up Toward Universal Access to HIV Prevention, Care, Support and Treatment” illustrates how bishops [...]
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    Access to Medicines for Children Living with HIV: Prescription for Life

Access to Medicines for Children Living with HIV: Prescription for Life

By |15 August 2008|

According to the UNAIDS Epidemic Update, about 290,000 children under the age of 15 died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2007. Many of these children were poorly diagnosed or received no - or inadequate - treatment.

Cardinal Rodríguez on World AIDS Day 2008

By |15 August 2008|

“Greater leadership on HIV is still needed as we mark the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Despite some progress, HIV is a major obstacle to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The pandemic causes incalculable human suffering. It threatens the social and economic infrastructure of the human family. More needs to be done. “Children will be a key focus for Caritas in 2009. A third of adults who need them now receive the necessary anti-retroviral medications to live longer and better lives. But only 15 percent of children living with HIV get these essential drugs. Many die before their second birthday. Pharmaceutical companies and governments must show leadership by developing child friendly medicine for HIV and improving testing. We will be campaigning to prevent further loss of these vulnerable children. “On the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day, I am immensely proud of the leadership of Caritas Internationalis, its 162 members [...]

International AIDS Conference wraps up

By |15 August 2008|

AIDS representatives speaking at the end of the International AIDS Conference 2008, which took place in Mexico City from 3-5 August, have emphasised the need for a combined prevention package. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done. It needs to be done and it must continue but we can’t sit down and wait for a vaccine the way things are going. People working in the prevention field have now coined combination prevention strategies as the way forward,” said Dr Julio Montaner, AIDS 2010 International Chair and IAS President 2008 – 2010. Up to 25,000 delegates from across the globe including people living with or affected by HIV, professionals from fields of scientific research, health, social services, development, and human rights took part in the five-day conference, which bore the theme “Universal Action Now!” Before the conference, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance held a pre-conference entitled “Faith in Action Now!” [...]

Halftime but not halfway: MDGS and HIV

By |15 August 2008|

  The Millennium Development Goals form a plan agreed by world leaders to help millions of people out of poverty by 2015. Caritas is a supporter of Stand Up, a global mobilisation to end poverty and inequality and for the MDGs. This year, we are asking people to Stand Up and Take Action on October 17-19, to ensure governments worldwide hear our demands to end poverty and inequality. To add to the debate, Head of the Caritas Delegation at the UN in Geneva, Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitilllo, takes a look at MDGs and HIV. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger The poor are not necessarily more likely to become infected with HIV, but the impact of HIV infection can be magnified by poverty. In India, the financial burden associated with HIV represents 82% of annual income for the poorest households, while the comparable burden for the wealthiest families is around 20%. HIV also poses a threat to accomplishing [...]

AIDS: The courage to fight

By |15 August 2008|

In 1991, Angelo went to a Rome hospital to donate blood. This was how he found out he was HIV positive. “I cried in desperation,” he said. “But after a while something was unleashed in me that told me to have courage and to fight for something that was worth fighting for.” He now lives in one of Caritas Romana’s three “family houses” which are set in park land in an exclusive residential suburb in Rome. Apart from a home, Caritas also provides Angelo with food, help with expenses, medical care and access to a psychologist. Locals were originally opposed to the family houses being given over to people with HIV and AIDS. But after a tough battle by Caritas Romana founder, Don Luigi Di Liegro, the houses opened their doors on 5th December 1988. Angelo, thinks that attitudes haven’t necessarily changed that much towards people with HIV and AIDS over the past [...]

April 10, 2008

Church in Vietnam and its response to HIV and AIDS

By |10 April 2008|

The estimated number of people living with HIV in Vietnam more than doubled from 120,000 in the year 2000 to 260,000 in 2005 and had reached some 300,000 at the end of 2007.

August 16, 2007

World AIDS Day 2007

By |16 August 2007|

Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga says religious leaders must be at the forefront of responding to HIV and AIDS. In a statement to mark World AIDS Day, the Caritas President says that religious leaders can do this by helping to spread accurate information and promoting responsible behaviour to halt the spread of the virus. Cardinal Rodriguez said, “I welcome the inspiration and motivation provided by the 2007 Worlds AIDS Day theme of ‘Take the Lead. Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise’. Such leadership must be taken on all levels of society in order to respond justly and comprehensively to the global HIV pandemic. “Religious leaders can, should, and do exercise a leadership role by facilitating accurate information and by promoting responsible behaviour to prevent the further spread of HIV, by giving leadership on providing health, social, and pastoral service to people affected by or vulnerable to the pandemic, and making tangible [...]

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