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Free medicine and adequate assistance for those with AIDS

· Monsignor Mupendawatu speaks about the work of the foundation The Good Samaritan ·

At the end of 2010, more than 34 million people in the world were suffering from the AIDS virus. Only 5 % of them receive adequate assistance. A project being studied by the World Health Organization aims to drastically reduce the number of babies who contract the disease, by 2015. Recently in Rome, the International AIDS Society (IAS) brought together top experts in the fields of pathogens, treatment and prevention of HIV-AIDS, in order to come up with new strategies. However, the problem of how to increase assistance to the countries affected by the virus, remains. On the front lines in this battle without borders is the foundation of The Good Samaritan, guided by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care. We spoke with Monsignor Jean-Marie Mupendawatu, who just yesterday was nominated Secretary of the Vatican dicastery, having served there as an official from 1991 and under-secretary from 2009.

When and why was the foundation created ?

It was Blessed John Paul II who instituted the foundation on September 12, 2004. Then, he entrusted it to the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care. Its objectives consist in economic support for those who are ill and most in need, in particular those who have HIV-AIDS, who ask for a gesture of love and solidarity from the Church. I think we need to continue to promote and increase the already existing synergy between the Church, in its different articulations and the health world and the companies that produce medicines. To that end, we have created a “Model of integrated action” which, with respect and esteem for different roles and competencies, has important objectives.

What are they?

Eventually, we hope to be able to organize an important and necessary “workdesk” with the contribution of all those involved in the sector – ecclesial and no – but in the meantime, I believe that we must manage to ensure the free distribution of antiretroviral drugs to those who are infected, with the help of local governments. This would double the life expectancy of people with HIV from 11 to 22 years, according to the Joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). So I think it is fundamental that we encourage the formation of medical and nursing personnel, as well as directors. It would also be necessary to provide as much information and capability as possible to the local populations through formation courses for professionals who are able to operate in health contexts that are structurally lacking, like those in most economically disadvantaged countries. Of enormous strategic value could be the diffusion of laboratories of analysis, diagnosis and treatment. The ideal would be to develop an efficient network, of say, transportation and effective communication, despite the difficulties, in many areas that lack the necessary infrastructure. At the same time, constant improvement in the prevention of contamination of HIV/AIDS, especially from mother to child more generally, between members of the same family nucleus, is fundamental. Essentially, it involves extending and promoting as much as possible – in the first place through Catholic schools – education which transmits the values of life, of the family and of responsible sexuality. Finally, socio-economic support is vital; such as the diffusion of rural development projects and specifically targeted microcredit which will allow families and communities to support themselves and resolve problems that are aggravated by poverty and exclusion.

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St. Peter’s Square

Nov. 21, 2019

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