Vatican calls for AIDS medicine to be free

By David Kerr

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Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

At the 8th International AIDS Conference in Rome, the Vatican urged that medicines used to treat afflicted patients in Africa be provided free of charge.

“Let us ensure that AIDS sufferers are given prompt, free and effective treatment. Access to treatment should be universal. Let us do this beginning with mothers and children,” Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said June 22.

“Here, in the name of the Holy Father, I speak for so many suffering voices, for so many sick people who have no voice: let us not waste time, but invest in the necessary resources.”

The conference, organized by the Sant’Egidio Community, was attended by officials from around 20 governments under the slogan of “Long live mothers and children.”

“We can no longer tolerate the death of so many mothers,” said the Cardinal to delegates, “we cannot think of thousands of children as a lost generation. Nothing is lost; Africa has sufficient resources; it is the continent of hope.”

Friday's gathering marked the 10th anniversary of the Sant’Egidio Community’s DREAM program – Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition – which now operates in 10 African countries.

It aims to provide retroviral drugs to mothers who are pregnant or breast-feeding. Results seem to suggest that such treatment reduces the HIV/AIDS infection rate among their babies to 3 percent.  Meanwhile over 90 percent of adults treated by DREAM are able to resume working and thus support their families.

“The more the infection spreads among women, who are the mainstay of families and communities, the greater the risk of social breakdown in many countries,” explained Cardinal Bertone, “The sickness of women, of children, of men, becomes the sickness of a whole society.”

He concluded by assuring delegates that “Pope Benedict XVI with the Church loves all of Africa” and that “we are committed with you in this fight for life.”

“We know that AIDS is not a fatal destiny for humanity. Altogether, with the help of God, we have the ability and strength to fight it. We have the duty to promote with renewed enthusiasm the gift of life. Thank you.”

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