Caritas Working to Fight AIDS in Africa

Aid Agency Teams With US to Strategize Against Disease

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KAMPALA, Uganda, OCT. 5, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The president of Caritas Africa is sending a message to the Synod of Bishops, underlining his agency's commitment to fight AIDS and other problems on that continent.



Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala wrote this in a message posted on the Caritas Web site, addressing participants in the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which began Sunday and will run through Oct. 25.

"In order to fulfill the vision of Caritas Africa," he stated, "which is to have life in its fullness, we consider that our mission is to bear witness to the Love of God by working for the integral development of the human being with priority attention to the poor and the most destitute."

The prelate pointed out that Caritas has 45 national chapters in Africa, working for the development of these peoples.

"Africa is daily confronted with enormous challenges," he affirmed, "and very large segments of the populations of many countries in Africa are suffering from conflicts, social unrest, wars as well as from natural disasters and calamities such as drought, floods and cyclones."

The archbishop continued: "Diseases, including HIV/AIDS, malaria and others that are less publicized, are also causing a lot of difficulties to individuals and families."

In one initiative to fight these diseases, the international office of Caritas is teaming with the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See to organize a conference in Rome on preventing and combating AIDS and tuberculosis in young children.

The Oct. 14-16 conference will gather leaders from the Vatican, the United Nations, nongovernmental organizations, drug companies, and professionals in child care and AIDS, to discuss strategies for providing greater access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment for children with or at risk of contracting HIV and TB.

Caritas reported that some 800 children die daily from AIDS-related illnesses such as TB, most of them from poor countries that do not have the resources for diagnosis and treatment.

Wake-up call

Monsignor Robert Vitillo, Caritas' special advisor on HIV, stated, "An unacceptable number of children infected with HIV are dead before they reach their second birthday."

He continued: "The world must wake up to this terrible tragedy. It must invest money and expertise to keep HIV positive children alive."

The priest underlined the need to help mothers "receive treatment so that they will not pass on the virus to their infants."

As well, he said, "we need to test children earlier, and we need 'child friendly' medicines and dosages to keep these children healthy."

Miguel Díaz, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, stated that his embassy is "pleased to co-host this conference to highlight the importance of fighting HIV/AIDS in children."

Other co-sponsors of the conference are the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, the Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS, the World Health Organization Stop TB Department, the Stop TB Partnership, the Health Commission of the Union of Superiors General and Rome's Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital.

Archbishop Lwanga affirmed that Caritas attempts to "bring relief to the most vulnerable members of society."

He added: "It is called upon to contribute to the integral development of individuals. This combined mission of Caritas is often misunderstood but is well put into practice in Africa."

The prelate expressed his desire to help, through his organization, to build reconciliation, peace and justice in Africa and worldwide, "so that every human being may enjoy life in its fullness."

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On the Net:

Conference program: http://www.caritas.org/includes/pdf/PedHIVProgramEN.pdf