Strenthening Role of Churches in Combatting HIV-AIDS

(Vatican Radio) An international conference on stepping up the fight against HIV-AIDS opened in Rome on Tuesday, with participants focused on how to strengthen the role of faith based organisations. Jointly organised by UNAIDS and the global Catholic aid and development confederation Caritas Internationalis, the meeting will review progress over the past three decades and pinpoint ways of expanding access to life saving anti-AIDS treatment. The most recent report from UNAIDS sets a goal of having 15 million people on anti-retroviral therapy by 2015, while also looking longer term towards universal access to treatment and the elimination of AIDS-related deaths.

Among those helping to sponsor the conference is the U.S embassy to the Holy See. In opening remarks to participants Ambassador Ken Hackett spoke of the continuing role of the Catholic Church in providing prevention, treatment, care and counseling programmes in countries around the world. Philippa Hitchen caught up with him to find out more about the goals of the two day meeting…..

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Ambassador Hackett says: “The hope is that there’ll be a road map to come out of this, a kind of renewal process going on….a lot of progress has been made in combatting the disease, but now it’s time to reinvigorate and review and lay a clear plan forward for what it is that faith based organisations, the churches, governments and other agencies can do together for the future to eliminate this disease….

He adds that: “In the beginning, 25 years ago, governments just didn’t see a role for faith based organisations, it was ignorance….they didn’t know the nuns were running that hospital where the big Land Rover couldn’t even get down the road, and it was in that hospital that the nuns were able to reach out to the people…..so now there is a recognition that you have to look holistically at this problem, you have to reach it from a lot of different angles and the collaboration between governments and faith based institutions, effectively supported, must be the future.”

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