Tag Archives: HIV AIDS

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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Filed under Africa, Health, HIV & AIDS, Swaziland, Tuberculosis

HAART for Children: Arrival in Swaziland

Swaziland: Around 140,000 children our of a total population of 1.1 million are either infected with or affected by HIV.

Swaziland: Around 140,000 children out of a total population of 1.1 million are either infected with or affected by HIV. Credit: Caritas/Michelle Hough

By Michelle Hough, communications officer

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

Abba was on the CD player, pizza was on the menu and there was a car park full of 4x4s outside. It could have been any American town on a quiet Sunday night. But it wasn’t, it was Manzini in Swaziland.

I’d known Swaziland wasn’t going to be quite what I’d expected after I’d seen billboards advertising Kentucky Fried Chicken along the motorway as Sr Aine Hughes, emergency officer from Caritas South Africa, drove me from Pretoria. The American dream was alive and well in a mountain kingdom in southern Africa.

“Our HIV infection rate currently stands at 42 percent,” said Musa Dlamini, Caritas Swaziland’s AIDS programme officer over dinner. “That’s the highest rate in the world.”

That was one reason why I’d come here – to gather communications materials for HAART for Children – Caritas Internationalis’ paediatric AIDS campaign. We wanted to show what happened to children in poor countries when they didn’t have access to timely HIV/TB diagnosis and to adequate treatment.
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Simply, Stopping Tuberculosis

3rd World Stop TB Partnership Forum 24th March – World TB Day By Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo Head of the Caritas Internationalis Delegation in Geneva and Chairperson, Catholic HIV and AIDS Network (CHAN) 450_stoptb1

When compared to the biennial International AIDS Conferences, the environment of this Forum lacked the “glitz”. The crowds were smaller, and the activists were less assertive. But the sense of urgency was just as immediate and the passion was just as evident among the 1,500 participants from more than 100 countries who assembled on 23 March for the opening of the Third Stop TB Partners Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The theme of the Forum is both straightforward and compelling: “Simply, Stopping Tuberculosis (TB)”. Not many years ago, the global human family seemed to be well on its way to accomplishing that goal by the year 2050 – as had been promised by the public health, clinical, and scientific experts.

In the opening ceremony of the Forum, we learned that the dream may not be realized – due to a number of developments, including the large number of HIV/TB co-infections as well as the development of new and much harder-to-treat “multidrug-resistant (MDR)” and “extensively drug resistant (XDR)” strains of the bacillus that causes TB. It was reported that some 9.7 million people were diagnosed with TB during 2007 and 1.77 million people died of the disease.
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I HAART children

by Francesca Merico, delegation of Caritas Internationalis for the United Nationas in Geneva

Read this story in French or Spanish

Poe was born with HIV. She is 18. When I met her in Thailand in 2006 she looked healthy and charming. Poe has benefited from effective antiretroviral therapy, for many years now.

When I met Mai, she was 5 years old, but she looked tiny and little; her skin was completely dry and peeling off all over her body. At the centre where she lived, the nurse was having hard time to find the right dosage for the mix of anti-retrovirals (ARVs) that Mai needed. The nurse had to cut several adult pills in parts, on a trial-and-error approach with the recurring consequence of under- or over-dosing.
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Caritas President on the role of the family

Interview With Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga
By Gilberto Hernández García

MEXICO CITY, FEB. 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- With all of the importance that families have for individuals and society — including in the economic realm — the decision to form a family should be made with ample preparation, says the president of Caritas.

Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga affirmed this last month when he spoke with ZENIT at the 6th World Meeting of Families, held Jan. 14-18 in Mexico City.

In this interview, he considers the impact of poverty on family relationships and the Church’s response. Learn more…

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It is not enough just to talk about love

Twenty years of AIDS care by Caritas Romana
By Rev. Robert J. Vitillo
Caritas Internationalis’ Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS

I read with great surprise the news that Caritas Romana  is observing the twentieth anniversary of establishing its HIV and AIDS Services on 5th December. This is an occasion when the words, “It seemed like only yesterday …” at least for my memories of the work of Caritas Romana in this field.

In the late 1980s, I was working at the General Secretariat of Caritas Internationalis in Rome and, very early into my assignment, received the blessing of meeting Don Luigi Di Liegro, the Director of Caritas Romana. Before coming to Rome, I too had served as the Director of a diocesan Caritas organization in the United States, so I identified with the role and challenges faced by Don Luigi.

I quickly perceived, however, that this was no ordinary Caritas director. Every word that he spoke and every action that he took revealed the true meaning of the word “caritas” as it was exemplified by Jesus Himself.  Don Luigi was truly a man of “complete and unselfish love”. He treated every person he met, from the highest political or ecclesiastical leader to the homeless person on the street with respect for the God-given dignity they had received as children of God.

Thus it was no surprise that Don Luigi reacted swiftly and with determination to improve the plight of people living with AIDS in Rome  during the late 1980s. Many such persons were kept in hospital far beyond the necessary periods of time – mainly because they had no place to stay and no one to care for them.

Many had been abandoned by their families long before they knew that they had contracted this serious illness. Don Luigi decided that Caritas Romana should develop group home situations for such people – two homes for men and one home for mothers and children – all living with AIDS and with little hope of survival (since this occurred during a time when we had no knowledge that combination anti-retroviral treatment could prolong life expectancy and improve quality of life for persons living with HIV and AIDS).

Don Luigi was intensely focused on offering a welcoming, non-judgemental and compassionate environment to the residents of the Caritas Romana residences. He made that clear, in no uncertain terms, to those recruited to staff these residents. He greatly honoured me by requesting my assistance in planning the residences and in developing policies and procedures for their programmes.

Then came the difficult times. Local residents in the Villa Glori (Parioli) area of Rome were incensed that Don Luigi would bring people with AIDS to live in their upper-end area of the city. They protested and even introduced court action to block his plans. Don Luigi remained firm in his commitment to people living with the virus and presented a strong defence in court. Eventually, he, and those who would benefit from the Caritas Romana residences, won the case.

Once the houses opened, Don Luigi learned the painful stories of the residents and never seemed rushed or impatient as they recounted the many challenges encountered in their lives. Instead, he smiled broadly as they told him about the warmth and welcome they experienced in their new homes sponsored by Caritas Romana.

Perhaps most vividly I recall the day when the actress, Elizabeth Taylor visited the Villa Glori residence. She was accompanied by the fashion designer Valentino; he stayed only a few minutes, but she made it clear that she had come to visit and remained for almost two hours. As soon as Ms. Taylor started to speak English, Don Luigi realized that he had not provided for translation – he shouted across the room to me, “Bob, lo fai tu! (Bob, you do the translation!)”.

I am certain that the love and spirit of Don Luigi’s concern for people living with AIDS remains in the Caritas Romana residence. I know that his inspiration continues to strengthen my own commitment to advocate with and for those living with or affected by HIV.

I display prominently in my office a photo of Don Luigi and I can hear him say the words inscribed on this photo which, loosely translated into English, remind me: “It is not enough to talk about love; we must be willing, as Jesus did, to dirty our hands and put love (Caritas) into action with all whom we serve.”

Happy Anniversary to Caritas Romana and may Don Luigi continue to guide, from his new and heavenly home,  the active love that is promoted by Caritas all over the world!

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World AIDS Day – 1st December 2008

By Francesca Merico, CI International Delegate in Geneva

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), HIV has inflicted the “single greatest reversal in human development” in modern history. In 28 years, HIV and AIDS has become a global emergency, responsible for the deaths of some 25 million people. In sub-Saharan Africa, the region most affected by the epidemic, approximately 60 percent of adults living with HIV are women. 

The pandemic continues to cause untold physical, emotional, and spiritual pain, exacerbates human rights abuses, and disrupts family integrity and harmony. In the countries most heavily affected, HIV has reduced life expectancy by more than 20 years, causing dangerous consequences for the transfer of knowledge and values from one generation to the next. It has slowed economic growth, and deepened household poverty.

Today, despite the fact that 33 million people are living with HIV, many more do not know whether or not they have the virus and others do not know the difference between HIV infection and AIDS – the stage where a person’s immune system is seriously damaged and they may be unable to fend off serious infections, cancers, and other illnesses. Although special medicines to treat HIV have been developed, 70 percent of adults and 85 percent of children living with HIV lack access to much needed treatment.

Even though the transmission of HIV from an HIV-positive mother to her child can be avoided, 90 percent of the children living with HIV contracted the virus from their mothers.

World AIDS Day is an occasion to reflect on all these challenges as well as to reflect on the significance of HIV and AIDS for each and every one of us and especially for the Caritas Confederation which is called upon to serve the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our human community, including those living with or affected by HIV and AIDS.

For me, HIV and AIDS means the little hands and faces of the children I have met, hugged and spent time with. AIDS is their smiles, but also their suffering. It is the sadness and despair of the mothers queuing at the Lea Toto center in Kariobanghi or at the Korogocho clinic in Kenya hoping for some help for their babies; it is the distress of young men who have no more energy left to work and support their loved ones. It is all the grandmothers taking care of their grandchildren orphaned due to AIDS.

The theme for World AIDS Day this year is “leadership”. Leadership highlights the discrepancy between the commitments made to halt the spread of HIV and the actions taken to implement such promises.

This theme makes me think of the many people working for Caritas and other Catholic organisations, who are leading the AIDS response: Ann, Jane and Montserrat from CAFOD, Fr. Anthony and Fr. John from Caritas Vietnam, Klemens from MMI, Hernan, Rebecca and Juan Bosco in Mexico, Bob with CI, Nina at Misereor, Maria and Encarna in Kenya, Deirdre, Caroline and Finola at Trocaire, Ana Isabel from Caritas El Salvador, Vincent from Uganda, Rabia from CMMB, Burchard from Missio, Claudia from Kindermissionswerk, Fr. Michael Czerny from Africa Jesuit AIDS Network, Sr. Donata from the Health Commission of the Unions of Superiors General, and Greg from CRS.

Today, I am grateful to all of them for their engagement, commitment and passion for fighting HIV and AIDS.

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