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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

AIDS conference in Vienna with call for more funding

By |19 July 2010|

The 18th international Aids conference in Vienna ended Friday with one strong message: Despite the financial crisis the fight against HIV/AIDS must not decrease. “We are just at the end of the beginning,” said former US President Bill Clinton in his speech. At least 25,000 people from all over the world took part in this conference to discuss and to exchange new ideas, new scientific studies but also to exchange good practices and challenges they have encountered. Many people from the Caritas network were among them. Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis Special Representative on HIV and AIDS, said, “Instead of reassurances to provide more AIDS funding, a number of donors are indicating that there may be cutbacks in available funds.” "For years the Global Fund and others told us to scale up treatment and other support programme, now they suddenly tell us to scale down” said Fr. Richard Bauer, Director of Catholic AIDS [...]

Tensions over North Korea overshadow humanitarian crisis

By |24 June 2010|

Caritas is concerned about raised tension on the Korean Peninsula that could lead to further humanitarian tragedies.

HAART for Children Campaign

By |23 June 2010|

Children were at the heart of the Caritas response to AIDS during 2009. Every day, 800 children die from AIDS-related diseases. The Caritas ‘HAART for Children’ campaign urged governments and pharmaceutical firms to develop and provide ‘child-friendly’HIV and TB medicines as well as low-cost/low-technology testing methods to diagnose these infections. HAART stands for “Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy”, the combination of medicines that help prolong the lives of both children and adults living with HIV. These medicines also help to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus. “We simply do not have enough paediatric formulations and dosages of antiretrovirals,” says Msgr Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS. “Without them, more than half of children with HIV die before their second birthday. This tragic situation can no longer be tolerated – Caritas and other Catholic Church-related organisations can turn the tide through this campaign.” Organisations and Catholic religious orders in Africa, Asia, [...]

Treatment for children in South Africa

By |23 June 2010|

When seven-year-old Mosipho was brought to the Thabang Society in Parys, South Africa, she was close to death. She had been diagnosed with HIV in January and was seriously ill. “She was suffering from pneumonia and had a swollen abdomen and swollen legs. She wasn’t far from death,” said paediatrician Dr Almud Pollmeier. Mosipho, who has lived with her grandmother since the death of both her parents, was discharged from hospital after three weeks. Her health had improved but she still wasn’t on antiretrovirals (ARVs) and once she came out of hospital she started to deteriorate. Mosipho was taken to a specialist paediatric unit in Johannesburg where extra-pulmonary TB was diagnosed. The Thabang Society receives antiretroviral medicines from Caritas, but treating a child with TB medication and ARVs at the same time is problematic. “It can cause a severe immune reaction and the child can suffer a lot,” explained Dr Pollmeier. “We [...]

Training in Papua New Guinea

By |23 June 2010|

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has the highest HIV infection rate in the Pacific region. The true figure of people living with the disease in 2008 was estimated by the United Nations organisation UNAIDS at around 54,000 (out of a population of six million) although only half that figure was officially reported. Caritas supports an extensive network of centres in PNG providing quick, economical testing, as well as follow-up counselling, under the sponsorship of the Catholic bishops of the country. The regular supply and distribution of HIV rapid test kits ensures centres are well stocked. The demand for test kits has risen significantly as increased awareness of the facilities encourages more people to be tested. The care centres also provide counselling for couples and promote prevention of mother-to-child transmission. They offer treatment and support to orphans and vulnerable children. Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS, travelled to PNG in [...]

TB care in North Korea

By |23 June 2010|

Tuberculosis affects a large number of people in North Korea. The country’s international isolation and poverty mean drug supply is unreliable. Resistance to tuberculosis can develop if patients receive inconsistent or partial treatment. If multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) does occur, it can be harder and more expensive to treat. Caritas is one of the few aid agencies able to work in North Korea. Teams regularly travel there with medical supplies to support TB care centres. Caritas also provided generators to a TB hospital in Hadan in 2009. Surgeons will now be able to carry out operations with electricity and light. TB is a preventable and treatable disease. Yet, an estimated 1.8 million people died fromTB in 2008. Caritas Internationalis took part in theWorld Stop TB Partnership Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in March. Representatives presented models developed by faith-based organisations that focus on grassroots efforts, partnerships with governments, international donors and [...]

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