Religious, scientific and relief workers assembled March 7 at Catholic Relief Services’ Baltimore headquarters to mark two milestones in treating the worldwide AIDS epidemic.
First, the AIDSRelief consortium – which includes the University of Maryland Institute of Human Virology, the Catholic Medical Mission Board, IMA World Health, the Constella Group and Catholic Relief Services – has provided more than 100,000 men, women and children with life-saving antiretroviral treatments.
Second, through the efforts of the consortium, more than 250,000 people with HIV who are not yet eligible for antiretroviral drug therapy are receiving vital care and support that is helping them to stay healthier longer before they need ARVs, said Ken Hackett, president of CRS and a parishioner of St. Louis, Clarksville.
“AIDSRelief is one of the largest implementers of PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), the unprecedented outpouring of compassion by the American people in response to the global HIV and AIDS pandemic,” Mr. Hackett said. “I say ‘unprecedented’ for many reasons, not the least of which was (President George W. Bush’s) initial pledge of $15 billion over five years and actually on track towards spending $18.8 billion.”
Approximately 25 percent of care given to HIV/AIDS patients worldwide is provided by the Catholic Church and Catholic non-governmental organizations, said Bishop Denis J. Madden, urban vicar.
Protestant churches and missions also play a significant role in providing health care in developing nations worldwide, Bishop Madden said. “The World Health Organization estimates that 30 to 50 percent of health care around the world is provided by faith-based organizations – in some places as high as 70 percent.”
“AIDSRelief is a successful collaboration of diverse agencies sharing treatment prevention strategies,” said Dr. Tony Amoroso, assistant professor of the Institute of Human Virology. “For example, since AIDSRelief is based in Baltimore, we have been able to take the lessons, some of them hard lessons, that we have learned in treating HIV and AIDS in the city and apply that knowledge to our programs overseas.”