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EPIDEMICS
Vatican calls for free AIDS treatment across Africa
by Staff Writers
Vatican City (AFP) June 22, 2012


A top Vatican official called Friday on the international community to provide "free and efficient treatment" for AIDS in Africa, starting with pregnant women, mothers and their babies.

During an international conference organised by the Sant'Egidio Community, the number two in the Vatican, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, made the call "to states and to donors" to "rapidly provide those sick with AIDS with free and efficient treatment."

"Let universal access to health care be agreed on. Let us begin with mothers and children. In the name of the Holy Father, I speak for all those sick people who do not have a voice. Let us not waste time and invest the necessary resources," he added.

According to Bertone, "universal access to care is not a Utopian idea. In Africa as in Europe, we have a duty to contact all seropositive pregnant women, to give them retroviral therapy, to enable them to give life to a child who is spared AIDS and to help him grow up in a maternal presence."

The cardinal added that the disappearance of mothers in Africa due to AIDS deaths was destroying families and economies.

The Sant'Egidio Community has organised a conference attended by government ministers and officials from around 20 countries to mark the 10th anniversary of the launching of the DREAM programme (Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition) in Mozambique in 2002. The programme has since been extended to nine other African countries.

The Sant'Egidio Community holds that the transmission of AIDS to nursing babies and small children can be drastically reduced if retroviral drugs are provided to the mother during pregnancy and the breast-feeding period.

Of 180,000 people who benefit from the DREAM programme, about 20,000 cases of seropositive mothers have been followed, with an average AIDS transmission rate of three percent before the child reaches the age of 18 months.

While the Vatican has come under fire for its refusal to accept the use of condoms to protect people against AIDS, Cardinal Bertone said that "about 30 percent of centres for the treatment of HIV/AIDS all around the world are (Roman) Catholic", notably in Africa.

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