Tag Archives: HAART for Children

Pope meets with UNAIDS chief

Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé. Photo: Wiki Commons

Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé was in Rome yesterday for meetings with Pope Benedict XVI, Holy See officials and Caritas Internationalis representatives. Sidibé asked Pope Benedict for his support in keeping children free from HIV. He said it’s an achievable goal and one which can be reached by 2015.

“Millions of people around the world living with and affected by HIV are being supported by Catholic health care organisations,” said Mr Sidibé. “The full engagement of the Catholic Church in efforts to achieve zero new HIV infections among children is of paramount importance.”

Listen to Philipp Hitchens interview with Michel Sidibé.

UNAIDS and partners launched last year a Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive. The plan outlines a strategy which focuses particularly on the 22 countries that account for more than 90 percent of new HIV infections in children world-wide.

Sidibé also met with Michel Roy, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, which serves as one of the civil society organisations represented on the steering committee of the Global Plan to eliminate new HIV infections in children. Continue reading

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Looking back and moving forward on HIV and AIDS

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 environments, and well ensconced in my fourth floor balcony seat, I enjoyed observing the arrival of some 3000 delegates to this High Level Meeting, displaying a range of national costumes, business suits, as well as a surprising share of people in casual dress.

UN General  Assembly President called the meeting to order and extended a special welcome to the participants, including  30 Heads of State, He declared, “This High-level Meeting is a unique opportunity to reiterate our collective commitment and to step up our campaign against AIDS,” In fact, the dates of the meeting coincided almost exactly, but some thirty years previously, to the first diagnosis of AIDS among a small group of men in the USA (at that time, we did not yet know that thousands of others, mainly living in Eastern and Central Africa, also were suffering from this disease that destroys the immune systems of those living with it). At the same time, the event was convened to inaugurate the “last stretch” to achieve the pandemic-related Millennium Development Goals by their 2015 target date.

But Mr. Deiss did not limit his encouragement to governments – he also recognized civil society, including non-governmental and faith-based organisations, among the key stakeholders in efforts to eliminate HIV in the future: “I believe that if we are to succeed, it is essential for our actions to be based on a broad partnership in which governments, the private sector and civil society join forces and, together, play a greater governance role in efforts to combat the virus.”

Finally, in keeping with the UN principle of GIPA (Greater Involvement of People Living with AIDS), the UN General Assembly President identified people with firsthand experience of the virus as key stakeholders: “Universal access [to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support] implies social justice and social inclusion. Persons living with the virus must be stakeholders in every aspect of our effort. Their experiences and their stories are essential in developing an effective strategy for combating the epidemic.”

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon outlined a future road map for the global response to AIDS: to lower costs and deliver better programmes; commit to accountability; ensure that HIV responses promote the health, human rights, security and dignity of women and girls; and trigger a “prevention revolution,” harnessing the power of youth and new communications technology to reach the entire world. He maintained, “If we take these five steps, we can stop AIDS. We can end the fear. We can stop the suffering and death it brings. We can get to an AIDS-free world.”

Mr. Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, began his address by reminding the assembled delegates about the fear and stigmatizing behaviour that was prevalent during the early days of AIDS but that persists to this day in many countries: “People were afraid of each other and there was no hope.  “This image should not disappear.  It is part of our history.”

He reviewed the progress achieved over the years: 6.6 million HIV-infected people have attained access to life-saving and life-extending anti-retroviral medicines; new infection rates have been reduced significantly in 56 countries, including 36 in Africa.

He expressed deep regret, however, that AIDS has become  a “metaphor for inequality,” and noted that 1.8 million people living in developing countries die from AIDS-related illnesses each year; 9 million people are still waiting for treatment; and that, in high-income, a new HIV-free generation is emerging, while, in low-income countries,  millions of babies still are acquiring the virus from their HIV-infected mothers.

In conclusion, he stated emphatically, “We are at a defining moment. It is time to agree on a transformational agenda to end this epidemic,” he said.  That agenda must achieve zero HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths and it must become a reality.”

In additional to myself, other Caritas-related delegates to the UN High Level Session on AIDS include Mr. Joseph C. Donnelly, Head of CI Delegation in New York; as well as Ms. Finola Finnan and Ms. Anne-Marie Coonan, of Trócaire.

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HAART for Children: the challenge Swaziland faces

Thabisile has to walk 3 miles along a rough track just to get to the bus stop to go to hospital for her AIDS treatment. Then, it costs 30 rand (around 2.60 euro) for a return trip, and she didn’t always have that money.

Thabisile has to walk 3 miles along a rough track just to get to the bus stop to go to hospital for her AIDS treatment. Then, it costs 30 rand (around 2.60 euro) for a return trip, and she didn’t always have that money. Credit: Caritas/Michelle Hough

By Michelle Hough, Communications Officer

Watch a film on the effects of AIDS in Swaziland and South Africa.

A group of 40 women and children are waiting for us as we arrive in the rural area of Velebantfu. They all have HIV, and so do many of the children.

I ask where all the men are. I’m told they are dead. Musa had told said that life expectancy in Swaziland was 37 years old. Many of the husbands and boyfriends who have died were in their 30s and 40s – an age when they could have actively contributed to the country’s workforce.

The women are now sick and frightened. They have little money and very little food or water. The local hospital provides antiretrovirals, but some women tell me they sometimes skip their monthly trip to the hospital because it is 45km away and they can’t always afford the bus fare. Some of the women I spoke to also have TB.
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