Church 'crucial' to fighting AIDS; US must keep funding

The Church’s involvement in fighting AIDS is crucial and it must keep receiving funding from the U.S. for the number of infections to drop, said a health expert with Catholic Relief Services on World AIDS Day.

Dec 02, 2014

Sekou-Toure hospital in Tanzania is a CRS-supported AIDSRelief partner, and serves both adult and pediatric clients living with HIV. Credit: Debbie DeVoe/CRS.

WASHINGTON D.C: The Church’s involvement in fighting AIDS is crucial and it must keep receiving funding from the U.S. for the number of infections to drop, said a health expert with Catholic Relief Services on World AIDS Day.

“We’ve seen a lot of positive outcomes in programs managed by the Church,” Dr. Jean Claude Kazadi told CNA.

He emphasized that the “comprehensive” focus on medication-based treatment combined with individual and communal empowerment is the “most effective way” of treating the disease.

Kazadi is the senior technical health advisor for Catholic Relief Services. He spoke with CNA on World AIDS Day, December 1, about the work CRS does in fighting and treating AIDS globally.

It is a comprehensive approach that seeks to empower the individual and the community through providing medication, he said, while also ensuring that infected persons take the medication daily and are held accountable by those living around them.

“You cannot have a good outcome,” Kazadi warned, “without getting (medications) involved.”

Medications can reduce the reach of AIDS, but they must be taken regularly for life. When the anti-retroviral medication is combined with all the rest of the treatments, the risk of spreading the disease is reduced by 96 percent, he maintained.

By focusing on medication-based treatment, Catholic Relief Services is thus able to prevent the spread of AIDS without purchasing or distributing condoms, the use of which violate Church teaching.

Even with the medication, Kazadi insisted, the global focus moving forward must be on children who are infected with AIDS. Out of the 2 million persons infected last year, 240,000 were children. Orphans especially must have access to the anti-retroviral treatment that is so critical to fighting the disease.

“That is one of our commitments for years to come,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said as much in his remarks at a World AIDS Day event at the White House. “We need to focus on the impact of HIV/AIDS on children, young women, and vulnerable populations,” he stated, noting that U.S.-led efforts have already halved the number of new child infections since 2004.

Along with the state department, the Catholic global relief organization Caritas International affirmed its ongoing commitment to fighting AIDS, focusing on Pope Francis’ call for Catholics to serve those living on the “peripheries” of society.

Caritas pledged to serve those infected “with creative love,” going beyond the “quick fix” and the “abstract strategies and policies.”

“Ours is a response that is measured, not only in realizing expected outcomes, but also by the greater enjoyment of human dignity among persons living with or affected by HIV,” the group stated. “Ours is a response of walking with, not merely ‘doing for’, HIV-positive persons as they empower themselves to live fully despite the challenges they face as a result of the virus.”

As the state department pledged its commitment to fight AIDS, Kazadi insisted that the U.S. has been, and must remain, a leader in the fight.

U.S. investment has “produced a dramatic result” already, he said, but must “stay committed” in funding Church-led organizations.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice expressed support for faith-based organizations in the AIDS fight.

“Even as we face many other challenges around the world and confront new epidemics, like Ebola, we must remain focused on this fight. And looking around this room – seeing people from across the government, leaders from the private sector, faith-based organizations, health workers, all united in a shared vision – I’m confident we will reach our goals,” Rice stated at the White House event.

“As recently as 10 years ago,” Secretary Kerry said, “it seemed like this would be a death sentence for an entire continent.”

“The tide is turning,” he added.--CNA

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