Pope Allocates $435,000 for Ugandan AIDS Orphans

Vatican Dedicates Lent to Helping HIV Victims

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 12, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican will dedicate Lent 2001 in a special way to helping AIDS victims in Uganda.

Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council «Cor Unum,» made the announcement Friday when presenting John Paul II´s Lenten message for this year.

The German archbishop, who promotes and coordinates the Church´s charitable work in the world, revealed that the Pope has made $435,000 available to children orphaned by AIDS. The funds were a donation from the municipality of Milan for the Jubilee.

The program´s main goal is to give integral assistance to the AIDS orphans in that Eastern African nation, including therapy, education, and human support, the archbishop said.

Quoting the International Herald Tribune of Feb. 6, Archbishop Cordes said that there are 12 million children in the world orphaned by HIV-related deaths, either because they have lost one or both parents, or because they have been abandoned. Some of them are also infected with the virus. «Sometimes they themselves are parents of families, as they are responsible for younger siblings,» the archbishop explained.

The initiative is in keeping with John Paul II´s apostolic exhortation «Church in Africa» which calls for «every possible consolation, material, moral and spiritual» to AIDS victims [see No. 116].

Uganda was chosen because it is one of the countries most affected by this scourge. «At the end of 1997,» Archbishop Cordes said, «the HIV infection in Ugandan adults was 9.551%. At that time, there were 1.7 million children orphaned by the sickness. Uganda´s population is now about 23.3 million.

«Moreover, in Uganda, thanks to prevention, steps have been taken in the struggle against the sickness. In some rural areas the percentage of girls between 10 and 20 years infected with the HIV virus has decreased by 4.5% in 1989-1990 to 1.4% in 1995-1997 — data provided by the United Nations in July 2000.»

During the press conference, Rose Busingye of Kampala´s Meeting Point Association, who works with AIDS orphans, described the present situation.

Busingye, a nurse, described how the HIV virus breaks down ancient solidarity within tribes, which traditionally looked after the sick and orphans. With AIDS, she said, things are different. The sick are marginalized, she noted, and only the immediate family, in the strict sense of the word, offers help.

Busingye stressed the importance of close personal contact in health care, especially in the case of orphans. She said that several times 10-year-old children have taken her by the hand and said, «When I am dying, you will hold my hand; then I will not be afraid of death.»

The magazine Science reported on this nurse´s work in its June edition.

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