CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 June 2019

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Progress made against AIDS but more needed

ROME (SE): As World Aids Day was observed on December 1, Father Robert Vitillo, full-time special advisor to Caritas Internationalis on HIV/AIDS and the attaché on health for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva said, “We still need to maintain our concern. Certainly, a lot of progress has been made in terms of helping people who know that they’re infected get access to anti-retroviral treatment, which means that they can live in a more healthy way and for much longer, so that’s good progress,” Vatican News reported. 
 
“We still have an elevated number of new infections in the world,” he said, pointing out that “more people need to be tested and diagnosed and therefore, be put on treatment.”
 
In the Vatican News interview, Father Vitillo stressed that one big problem is children who have been exposed to HIV through their mothers during pregnancy and after birth. 
 
“Less than 52 per cent of children who are exposed to HIV are actually tested, so we could know whether they are infected or not and get them onto treatment,” he said. 
 
“The most important number of infections are in sub-Saharan Africa… at the same time we have very steep infection rates in eastern Europe, Russia and many of the former Soviet Union states, and also we still have a steady number of new infections in the US, in Europe, in the higher income countries, again because people are not aware that they might be infected…” he said.
 
Father Vitillo noted that World Aids Day, which began 30 years ago, is important for raising awareness, but added that one day a year is not enough.  
 
“It’s really important for faith based organisations like the many in our own Catholic Church associated will health institutions, with educational institutions and even at parish level to encourage people to think about being tested for HIV and, therefore, knowing whether they’re infected and being able to get access to treatment,” he emphasised.
 
He said that the Church, especially through the Holy See, has worked extremely hard advocating for access to treatment. He added, that the Vatican has been in contact with pharmaceutical companies to alert them to the special problem of children with HIV.

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