On World AIDS Day, December 1, Caritas Internationalis, a federation of 164 Roman Catholic relief, development, and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide, urged governments and pharmaceutical companies to invest more in HIV prevention and care for children and reducing mother-to-child transmission.
“We need to give children with HIV the chance to live,” said Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis. “Caritas asks governments and drug companies to support better and earlier testing and treatment for these children. This is a life or death situation.”
Caritas says many children and women are still being left behind in the fight against AIDS, despite welcome advances in HIV testing and treatment.
The UNAIDS Global Report for 2010 says 2.5 million children are living with HIV. The report also says 90 percent of HIV-positive children live in Africa, but only 26 percent of them are receiving life-saving treatment. Fifty percent of untreated children with HIV die before their second birthday.
Caritas launched the “HAART for Children” campaign in 2009. HAART stands for “Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment.” The campaign argues that cheaper and more sophisticated HIV and tuberculosis and “child friendly” medicines are required in poor countries.
Though these medicines are available at low cost in many parts of the world, a number of mothers avoid testing because of the fear of stigma and discrimination. Ninety percent of HIV-infected infants are born to mothers who were never tested and never received medicines to prevent transmission.
During 2011 Caritas will focus on advocacy for lower prices with an expanded range of HIV medications; on making accurate pediatric HIV and TB testing tools available at local clinics rather than concentrating them in urban centers; and on promoting greater access to prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs.
A video on the work of Caritas Internationalis:
Reprinted with permission from PrepareTheWord.com. ©TrueQuest Communications.