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July 28, 2016 ·  By Rose Gamble for


One third of HIV positive children die before their first birthday due to lack of antiretroviral drugs


Church officials are in talks with major pharmaceutical companies in an attempt to persuade them to them develop and increase production of antiretroviral drugs for HIV positive children, says Caritas Internationalis special adviser.

One third of children who have tested positive for the HIV virus die before their first birthday due to a lack of access to antiretroviral drugs,Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Caritias Internationalis special adviser on HIV, said at a gathering of Catholic groups ahead of the International AIDS Conference which began this week in Durban, South Africa.

A lack of access and information is severely harming infected children while diagnostic tests for children are more expensive than those for adults and are often unavailable, Msgr. Vitillo told the Catholic News Service on 18 July.

While the provision of treatment for children “is not a high-profit area for pharmaceutical companies, it is crucial to save lives,” Msgr. Vitillo said.

The church must continue its strong global response to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome(AIDS), said Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, at the gathering.

Discrimination and stigma attached to AIDS are still significant problems in South Africa, said Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenberg, who addressed the Durban meeting on July 16.

“Working to eliminate stigma should be a priority for the church, particularly in poor areas with minimal government health care services, Bishop Dowling said.

Father Egan, who teaches at St. Augustine College in Johannesburg, addressed the Durban meeting on ethical issues related to HIV and AIDS.

“We need to move away from seeing ourselves as people working in the field of AIDS who happen to be Catholic” to a more sophisticated theology of conscience that enables a “deeper understanding of the social ethics, including why the church needs to respond” to the pandemic, Egan said.

Despite medical advances, AIDS is far from being under control and infection rates are not declining, American entrepreneur and philanthropist, Bill Gates, told an audience at the annual Nelson Mandela lecture series hosted by the University of Pretoria at the weekend.

“We have not turned a corner,” the Times reports him as saying.

His philanthropic foundation is to donate £5 billion over the next five years to boost economic progress in the fight against AIDS along with diseases including the Zika virus and malaria.

About 36.7 million people are infected with HIV worldwide, the United Nations AIDS agency said in a 12 July report, noting that an estimated 1.9 million adults had become infected with HIV every year for at least the past five years.

Around 15 per cent of the population of South Africa are infected with HIV. It has the world’s largest treatment program, with 3.4 million people receiving antiretroviral drugs.

More than 18,000 doctors, politicians, world leaders, and HIV-positive people have gathered to discuss the current state of the epidemic and how to improve access to antiretroviral treatment, at the International Aids conference, which began in Durban on 18 July.

Prince Harry and Sir Elton John will co-host a panel at the conference on Thursday 21 July on the impact that the stigma attached to HIV has on young people.

Last week, Prince Harry took an HIV test at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in London live on social media to encourage people to get tested for the virus.

“Even being the person I am and knowing the type of people I’m around, I’m still nervous,” Prince Harry said before taking the test.

By highlighting HIV and Aids, Harry is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.


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