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 [...]

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 [...]
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    Pandemic diseases: Promoting prevention, treatment, and care

Pandemic diseases: Promoting prevention, treatment, and care

By |23 June 2010|

Caritas works on behalf of those at risk fromdevastating pandemics such as HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. In the developing world, poverty itself is both a cause and an effect of pandemics that devastate the physical, social and economic health of entire regions. Caritas raises awareness about AIDS issues around the world through training workshops. In 2009, it facilitated workshops in Asia, Africa and Oceania, with a particular focus on training young people. It also published the Caritas Training Manual on AIDS in French and Arabic. Caritas is a member of CHAN (Catholic HIV and AIDS Network) which aims to strengthen the response of Catholic faithbased organisations to the HIV pandemic. Caritas work on pandemics in 2009 included: Provision of medicines and care Income generation activities Training for health workers Raising public awareness on prevention, stigma and discrimination Counselling Advocacy for universal access to care and treatment

It’s difficult to talk about AIDS in Darfur

By |14 June 2010|

By Edwyn Shiell, Act for Peace - Campaigns & Communication Coordinator “It’s difficult to talk about HIV and AIDS in Darfur. You can’t really talk about it openly in the camps”, says Gloria Gwoka Nakoboji, the HIV/AIDS Project Officer for the Sudan Council of Churches - SCC (A Caritas partner) in Nyala, Darfur. Estimates of people infected with HIV vary greatly across Sudan and in Darfur many people would go as far as to question the existence of diseases in general let alone AIDS. There are deep seeded cultural perceptions of AIDS in the Internally Displaced People’s camps and the SCC continues its innovative work through community networks, campaigns and education in order to counter these perceptions and prevent the spread of the virus. This challenging context provides a variety of dilemmas for the confident and creative workers that have made the project such a success with communities in South Darfur. Gloria said, "Most [...]

Fight Paediatric HIV and TB

By |15 October 2009|

Securing Better Access to Early Testing and Treatment for Children Living with HIV or HIV/TB Co-Infection and to Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV. 14 - 16 October 2009 | Programme (English) » | Programme (Italiano) » | Invitation » In poor countries, some children with HIV and TB don’t stand a chance at life. Children may die because they are not diagnosed in time. Even with a timely diagnosis, children’s lives are at risk because treatment is too expensive or not adaptable to a poor setting, or else it is not available in a child friendly format. Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Caritas Internationalis is organising a conference to gather together experts to discuss the need to improve and expand access to testing and treatment for children living with HIV and TB. The conference aims to build on the foundations laid down by Caritas Internationalis’ HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral [...]

HIV- and TB-free children

By |9 October 2009|

Caritas Internationalis is urging governments and pharmaceutical companies to act now and ensure more children do not die because of lack of access to HIV and TB testing and treatment.
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    Imagine access to treatment, prevention, and care for HIV and AIDS: Some hope

Imagine access to treatment, prevention, and care for HIV and AIDS: Some hope

By |15 August 2009|

The AIDS emergency is centred on the developing world, where millions of people are vulnerable to poverty, hunger and disease. It’s in these countries where whole generations are being wiped out and societies decimated by a disease that is no longer considered life-threatening in richer countries. Rev. Msgr. Robert J Vitillo is Caritas Internationalis’ Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS. He represents Caritas on AIDS issues, liaises with international bodies, compiles best practices and is responsible for global advocacy, training and education. “Caritas focuses on the most vulnerable people and provides care, support and treatment to prevent the further ravages of the disease,” said Msgr. Vitillo. Up to two-thirds of people affected are in sub‑Saharan Africa, the poorest region in the world. People in poor nations may not have access to regular food or clean water, let alone the treatment required to keep AIDS under control. “Caritas has advocated for increased access [...]
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    Imagine access to treatment, prevention, and care for HIV and AIDS: Empowerment in Vietnam

Imagine access to treatment, prevention, and care for HIV and AIDS: Empowerment in Vietnam

By |15 August 2009|

In January 2008, Caritas held workshops and seminars in Ho Chi Minh City to boost the knowledge of Church workers regarding innovations in AIDS care.

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 [...]

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 [...]

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