Expanding access to HIV treatment globally and strengthening the role of faith-based organizations in the provision of such services was the focus of a consultation, co-organized by Caritas Internationalis and UNAIDS, held in Rome, on February 25th -26th, 2014.Lawrence Ojom, former medical superintendent of St. Joseph's Hospital Kitgum and now coordinator of AVSI healthcare projects in Uganda, together with Luciano Valla, who has been committed for more than forty years to international cooperation, took part in the meeting presenting AVSI’s 40-year experience. They bore witness to the huge work carried out by AVSI in the field of healthcare, especially in Uganda, one of the countries most affected by the tragic HIV pandemic which broke out 30 years ago killing thousands of people. In Uganda, AVSI supports 4 hospitals and 37 healthcare centers, and in more than ten years its activities in the framework of the FREE project reached 197.343 new mothers and allowed 4.713 children to be born HIV free.
“Ensuring 15 million people have access to high quality antiretroviral medicine and care by 2015 will be a critical milestone in reaching everyone in need,” said Dr Luiz Loures, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director Programme, UNAIDS. But we cannot do it alone. Historically, the services provided by the faith-based community have been a critical contribution to the millions of lives saved and they must be fully involved and engaged in efforts to expand access to HIV services. They have the capacity, the networks, the expertise and the experience. They will be one of our greatest allies in reaching people most in need.”
“The event recognizes the extensive HIV treatment services as well as care and support programs offered by Caritas, other Catholic Church-based organizations, and many other Christian faith traditions, particularly in areas with limited resources” said Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Michel Roy.
From the consultation it stood out that a constructive approach involving all the actors committed to promote human dignity (various institutions, Civil Society Organizations, the academic community) is needed in order to cover the “last mile” and to meet people’s needs.
The consultation is related to UNAIDS’ Treatment 2015 initiative to reach at least 15 million people living with HIV with antiretroviral treatment. According to UNAIDS, at the end of 2012, 9.7 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy in resource-limited settings.
More than 100 participants attended the consultation representing diverse Christian faith traditions, UNAIDS, Vatican offices, governments, the medical and scientific community, and the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.
Read moreSee more picture on photophilanthropy.orgAVSI at AIDS Conference 2012 in Washington DC