VATICAN CITY – Anticipating the Dec. 1 commemoration of World AIDS Day, the president of Caritas Internationalis urged greater efforts from governments and from medical experts in caring for children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, president of the international organization of national Catholic charities, issued his statement Nov. 17.
The cardinal said that while a third of HIV-positive adults in the world have access to antiretroviral drugs so they can live longer and better lives, “only 15 percent of children living with HIV get these essential drugs. Many die before their second birthday.”
“Pharmaceutical companies and governments must show leadership by developing child-friendly medicine for HIV and improving testing,” he said.
Cardinal Rodriguez said children will be the key focus of the 162 Caritas members in 2009.
“We will be campaigning to prevent further loss of these vulnerable children,” he said.
The cardinal also said, “On the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day, I am immensely proud of the leadership of Caritas Internationalis, its 162 members and their Catholic Church partners in response to the HIV pandemic.
“Together, we provide a large proportion of all HIV health care in developing countries,” work to end discrimination and to promote policies sensitive to the needs of people vulnerable to the pandemic, he said.
The AIDS pandemic, the cardinal said, is a major obstacle to fighting poverty and promoting development.
“It threatens the social and economic infrastructure of the human family. More needs to be done,” he said.
In 2007, Caritas said, 33.2 million adults and 2.5 million children were living with HIV or AIDS and almost 90 percent of them were living in developing countries.
Catholic Church agencies such as Caritas provide a quarter of all HIV care in the worst-hit continent of Africa, the organization said.
Caritas works in 107 countries to provide access for all to prevention, treatment and care grounded in the teachings of the Catholic Church, it said.