Pontiff: Avoid Bias Against AIDS Patients

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Ahead of World AIDS Day, Benedict XVI called for the avoidance of all discrimination against those affected with the HIV virus.



After praying the midday Angelus today with the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope expressed the hope that the AIDS Day "will serve to foster greater responsibility in curing the disease, as well as in the commitment to avoid all discrimination of those who have been affected." World AIDS Day will be observed next Friday.

The Holy Father invoked "the Lord's consolation on the sick and their families," and encouraged "the many initiatives which the Church supports in this field."

The Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry reckons that 25% of AIDS patients worldwide are looked after by institutions of the Catholic Church or by Catholic nongovernmental organizations.

A recent UNAIDS/WHO 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update estimated that 39.5 million people live with HIV.

There have already been 4.3 million new infections this year, with 65% of these occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Evidence suggests that infection rates in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have risen by more than half since 2004.

This year alone, 2.9 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses.