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NUNCIO PRAISES PROGRESS ON HIV/AIDS, WARNS AGAINST COMPLACENCY

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) — Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations, applauded recent progress made around the world to end the AIDS epidemic and warned against complacency on efforts to end the disease.

He made the comments in a statement to the United Nations’ high level meeting on HIV/AIDS June 10.

After a brief celebratory message on the progress described in the secretary-general’s report “On the Fast-Track to End the AIDS Epidemic,” the archbishop urged the U.N. “to pay equal attention to the cautionary note raised in the same report, namely, that ‘AIDS is far from over … despite remarkable progress.'”

Archbishop Auza explained that many Catholic organizations avoid complacency by reporting “persistent obstacles” to the eradication of HIV and AIDS, such as limited access to treatment and health care in underdeveloped countries; the interruption of health care services for those who do not live in “HIV ‘hot spots'”; and a tremendous lack of “appropriate, affordable, accessible ‘child-friendly’ formulations and dosages for pediatric use.”

He stated that health care centers constantly run out of medication, diagnostic tools and supplies, which drastically impedes HIV and AIDS treatment in many places. The archbishop lamented that women and children are denied treatment or prevented from accessing health care because of stigmatization as a result of their HIV status, and emphasized that “stigmatization can never be an excuse to exclude or leave anyone behind.”

Rather than consider the case closed, the archbishop called on the international community to create goals and strategies that are “anchored in reality.”

Another obstacle that Archbishop Auza touched on was the fact that in many areas, health care is “a privilege for those who can afford it.” As a result of little or no access to health care, the archbishop said, “as many as 50 percent of HIV positive children die before their second birthday,” a statistic that can be addressed if drastic measures against HIV/AIDS continued to be taken.

To some degree, the issue has begun to be addressed, he noted.

He said there have been two meetings at the Vatican with executive officers of several pharmaceutical companies to plan a more effective response to children living with HIV. Those leaders, the archbishop said, agreed that “providing affordable, appropriate and accessible HIV medicines and diagnostic tools for pediatric use is an urgent global goal.”

The archbishop concluded his statement with a universal call to action: “Together let us muster the will, continue to sharpen the technical expertise already available and find the resources necessary to provide access to diagnosis, care and treatment, not only for a privileged few, but for all.”

 

LACE UP YOUR WALKING SHOES

It was 1981, more than 30 years ago, when AIDS was first diagnosed in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Roman Catholic Church, through a network of organizations and treatment facilities, provides about 25 percent of AIDS-related services globally. It is the largest AIDS healthcare services provider in the world. Catholic Relief Services has AIDS programs in more than 60 countries.

While the Church has instituted HIV/AIDS programs in Atlanta, Sacramento and Los Angeles, work is being done right here in O.C. to support AIDS services programs.

Santiago de Compostela Parish in Lake Forest launched the OC Catholics AIDS WALK team for the first time in 2012 and has been walking for the past three years to raise money for the treatment of some 7,000 affected by the disease in Orange County. The team consists of seven members led by Steven Payne. Money is used to provide transportation, in-home meals, mental health counseling and other family programs.

The team from Santiago de Compostela is looking for more walkers to join them in this year’s AIDS Walk/Run. The event takes place on Saturday, May 9 at the William R. Mason Regional Park in Irvine. Participants may run or walk over the 5K course which is relatively level terrain throughout. Check-in can be completed online or on the day of the event at 7 a.m. The Walk/Run begins at 8 a.m.

More information may be found at ocasf.org or by calling Steven Payne at 949.584.9156. Those interested in supporting the group without walking are invited to donate to the OC Catholic AIDS Walk team through ocasf.org.