HIV and AIDS programme in Darfur for pregnant women and new mothers. Credit: Mohammed Noureldin/ACT Caritas
An update by Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS, Caritas Internationalis
HIV: Much progress but still many challenges
World leaders gathered at UN headquarters in June 2011 to assess progress in the global AIDS response. They noted that global HIV incidence was declining, access to combination anti-retroviral treatment was expanding, and a global movement had been mobilized to respect and protect the dignity of all affected by HIV. They affirmed that the HIV response had changed our world by elevating global inequities in health onto the political agenda and placing people at the center of health and development efforts. They cautioned, however, that such accomplishments might be in grave jeopardy due to aid fatigue and an enduring global economic downturn, which were posing threats to future support for essential initiatives.
Women are particularly vulnerable to HIV in Papua New Guinea. Jean and Janet raise awareness on the issues through their volunter work at a Church centre in Mendi. Credit: Patrick Nicholson/Caritas
By Patrick Nicholson
Epeanda means ‘return to life’ in the local language of this part of Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands. It seemed a good word to the staff, volunteers and patients of the Mendi Diocesan HIV and AIDS programme to describe their activities.They liked it so much, they ended up using it as a title for a new centre that opened there in 2005.
The Catholic Church’s work on HIV and AIDS in Mendi stretches back to 1995. Then the work revolved around explaining the virus, how it is transmitted and challenging the stigma attached to those people living with HIV.
Sr Gaudentia Meier, a Sister of Divine Providence from Switzerland who works at the centre, said better testing and treatment has changed everything. “Before treatment became available and testing more widespread, we were only able to help people who were infected become accepted within their community,” she said. “All we could do was help them die in peace. We could keep them alive a little longer perhaps, find somebody to care for their children, but there was little else we could do.” Continue reading