August 15, 2011

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 [...]

July 7, 2011

Advocacy: Calling for a better world

By |7 July 2011|

When Caritas speaks, its voice is heard. It is heard by governments, policy and lawmakers, drug companies, the United Nations, other humanitarian organisations. It is a powerful voice, created fromhundreds of thousands of voices around the world.  Caritas speaks on behalf of the poor and the marginalised, calling for a moral way of living for us all, refusing to accept that it is business as usual with continued economic upheaval and record food prices. In 2010, Caritas urged action to stop the chance of a lifetime from slipping through our fingers. This chance is enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals, which seek to cut poverty by half by 2015. But without more help to developing countries, we are in danger of not keeping our promises to the poor. Caritas also campaigned internationally on climate change at the Cancun summit, and Caritas Canada (Development and Peace) pressed world leaders at the G8 [...]

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 [...]

June 9, 2011

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 [...]

Promoting Action: Caritas HAART for Children Campaign

By |9 June 2011|

By Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, Head of Delegation to the UN in Geneva and Special Advisor on HIV/AIDS for Caritas Internationalis Let’s begin with the good news -  of a child who gained access to anti-retroviral treatment (ART) at the Village of Hope, a programme in Tanzania that is assisted by the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù Hospital. However, there are other tragic experiences, too numerous to tell, of children who are diagnosed too late to benefit from such treatment. Despite World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations to test all infants with unknown HIV exposure and to start treatment for all HIV-infected infants under 12 months of age, access is still a grave problem in many parts of the world. For example, in Myanmar, ART is available to only 1/3 of adults who need it, and there are no reliable estimates of infected children, let alone of those who need ART.  In fact, in [...]

Caritas co-sponsored event at UN HIV meeting

By |8 June 2011|

Caritas Internationalis General Secretariat and Caritas member representatives are attending the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV in New York this week, where they will be part of the launch a policy paper on the need for maintaining funding to tackle the pandemic in the wake the financial crisis. The meeting, which takes place from June 8th – 10th, will review progress against commitments made in 2001 and 2006. Although the global community has contributed more than US$32bn to achieve universal access to treatment for all those infected, these targets have not been met, particularly in the poorest countries. Finola Finnan, Trócaire (Caritas Ireland) Programme Leader for HIV and AIDS and Chair of the Catholic HIV and AIDS Network (CHAN), will stress the need for countries to fulfil commitments already made, while also calling on further long-term commitments to extend treatment and support to the most vulnerable. The CHAN paper [...]

March 7, 2011

Update on HAART for Children Campaign

By |7 March 2011|

Caritas says mothers living with HIV in poor countries face anguish. Caritas says the risks to the health of their children are massive and their lives may be painfully short. And yet, the suffering and deaths of these children are preventable. “Children and women need access to timely diagnosis of HIV and TB and to appropriate treatment and care. We appeal to governments, pharmaceutical companies, and all people of good will to make this possible,” said Caritas Internationalis Special Advisor for HIV and AIDS, Rev. Msgr. Fr Robert Vitillo. Over 370,000 infants were newly infected with HIV in 2009, mainly through mother-to-child transmission. Such infections can occur during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding. Access to a simple course of anti-retroviral medication could prevent these infections, yet 260,000 children died of AIDS-related illnesses that same year. Caritas’ “HAART* for Children” campaign was launched on International Women Day 8 March 2009. It urges governments and [...]

Highlights of HAART for children campaign

By |7 March 2011|

The following Caritas initiatives, undertaken since 2009, have aimed at increasing access to testing and treatment for children and mothers with HIV and TB: Advocating with pharmaceutical companies for better testing and treatment. Encouraging the international community to prioritise maternal and infant care, especially for those living with HIV. Organising a conference on paediatric HIV and TB, in Rome, to promote sharing of experience and knowledge among experts, Church and UN representatives and AIDS field workers. Caritas India has promoted awareness-raising on this topic among social work students and mobilized them to advocate on behalf of such vulnerable women and children. Caritas Slovenia and Slovakia raised awareness among school children about AIDS issues affecting children. Caritas Australia met with Roche pharmaceutical company to promote access to testing and treatment for children with HIV. The Prescription for Life letter writing campaign has resulted in: Caritas Austria handing over to officials of the national government 21,000 signatures calling for [...]

December 3, 2010

Caritas response to Pope on condoms and HIV and AIDS

By |3 December 2010|

Why should Caritas and other Catholic Church organizations be encouraged by these comments of Pope Benedict XVI?  Comment by Pope Benedict XVI: “the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment.” Talking Point: The Pope clearly affirms those Catholic Church-related organizations that have been engaged in HIV prevention, treatment, support and care. He acknowledges the urgency of the HIV pandemic and the need to assist people living with or affected by HIV. Does Pope Benedict offer any new insight on the issue of HIV and AIDS?  Comment by Pope Benedict XVI: “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward [...]

November 29, 2010

More funding needed for children with HIV on World AIDS Day

By |29 November 2010|

This World AIDS Day on 1 December, Caritas is urging governments and pharmaceutical companies to invest more in HIV prevention and care for children and reducing mother-to-child transmission. “We need to give children with HIV the chance to live,” said Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, President of Caritas Internationalis. “Caritas asks governments and drug companies to support better and earlier testing and treatment for these children. This is a life or death situation.” Caritas says many children and women are still being left behind in the fight against AIDS, despite welcome advances in HIV testing and treatment. The UNAIDS Global Report for 2010 says 2.5 million children are living with HIV. The report says 90 percent of HIV-positive children live in Africa but only 26 percent of them are receiving life-saving treatment. Fifty percent of untreated children with HIV die before their second birthday. Caritas launched the “HAART for Children” campaign in 2009. HAART [...]

Caritas statement on Pope and HIV and AIDS

By |21 November 2010|

  Caritas Internationalis welcomes the Pope’s reported comments on the importance of responding to the HIV pandemic. They are an affirmation of the importance of pastoral sensitivity and compassion in HIV and AIDS prevention. The comments are reported in the book “The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times” due to be published on November 23. In the book, the Pope is quoted as saying that for some individuals – for instance a male prostitute – the use of a condom to prevent HIV infection can be a first step towards assuming moral responsibility and adopting a more human way of living sexuality. He goes on to say that while condoms may reduce the risk of infection, the Church does not regard them as a real or moral solution. Caritas Internationalis works in the prevention of HIV infection and in the treatment and care of those living with HIV and AIDS. Caritas Internationalis [...]

July 23, 2010

AIDS Conference in Vienna: We need to move forward on HIV

By |23 July 2010|

Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, the Special Advisor on HIV/AIDS for Caritas Internationalis, spoke about the recent challenges in combating HIV and AIDS, on the occasion of the upcoming World AIDS Conference in Vienna (18-23 July 2010). Is the world facing up to the challenge of responding to HIV AIDS?  I fear that the world is forgetting AIDS nowadays. For example, one new and very serious concerns is whether governments will continue to support the “fight” against AIDS or if they will give priority to other issues. The United States, for example, has changed the name of its global AIDS programme to the “Global Health Initiative”. Similarly, the United Kingdom announced that it now would give priority to fighting malaria and maternal mortality. These are indeed valid concerns, but must they be pursued to the neglect of the 33.4 million people living with HIV in the world today?  In the beginning of June, I visited [...]

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