In an interview with Vatican Radio, Monsignor Robert Vitillo, special adviser on AIDS for Caritas Internationalis and among the participants at the AIDS Conference in Washington, spoke of the challenges facing those who seek funds for anti-retroviral medication.
When asked if he was satisfied with the outcome of the International Aids Conference, Monsignor Vitillo said he was pleased with the progress made so far to fight the disease. “I feel that there has been much progress in terms of seeing the effectiveness when we can provide greater access to more and more people. Access to the combination anti-retroviral treatments that helps people living with HIV to stay healthy longer and to prolong their lives and have a better quality of life,” he said.
At the same time, he acknowledged that funding remains a major issue. Citing the fact that several agencies fighting other diseases have acknowledged that “money is not drying up," those who look for funding for HIV/AIDS medication are told that they “have to be satisfied with that given the economic crisis.”
"We can't do more with less (funding)," Vitillo said, adding "we must find the way" to give a further 8 million people who need them access to the antiretroviral drugs.
Monsignor Vitillo also stated that he believes the international community must not lower its guard in the campaign to combat AIDS: "I think there's a risk of complacency and also a serious risk of false security," he said.
Turning to the key role of the Catholic Church in both treating and caring for those who suffer with AIDS/HIV, Monsignor Vitillo believes this role is "definitely growing in importance" and noted that in South Africa, for example, the Catholic Church is the "second greatest provider of anti-retroviral drugs" after the government.
“The key to helping to halt the spread of the AIDS virus is behaviour change," Monsignor Vittillo said. He added, however, that although much progress has been made on this front in many countries "it's not enough."
"The Church must continue its teaching and help people to develop responsible behavior."