VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2003 (Zenit.org).- On the eve of World AIDS Day, John Paul II encouraged believers to offer their indispensable service to people affected by the HIV virus.
The Pope mentioned that campaigns to check the spread of this disease are proving ineffective. The sickness “is still growing strongly, especially in the poorest countries,” he said today.
“While I pray for those who are stricken by this scourge, I encourage all those in the Church who carry out an invaluable service of acceptance, healing and spiritual support towards these, our brothers and sisters,” he added.
The Holy Father spoke before bidding farewell to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the midday Angelus.
The United Nations says in a recent report that deaths and new cases of HIV/AIDS reached unprecedented highs in 2003 and were set to keep rising. About 5 million people were infected in 2003 and more than 3 million died.
The report revealed global estimates showing that some 40 million people worldwide are now living with HIV/AIDS.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst affected region, according to the U.N. figures, with about 3.2 million new infections and 2.3 million deaths in 2003.
The report said the epidemic is spreading in India, China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia.