Information Project Aims to Combat Spread of AIDS in Africa

Inspired by Network Used by the Church in Latin America

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MILAN, Italy, MAY 10, 2004 ( A program aimed at reducing the possibility of African mothers infecting their children with AIDS owes its start to the experience of the Information Network of the Church in Latin America.

The program, part of the Project Africa information network, was explained by Monsignor Lucio Ruiz at the 4th Infopoverty World Conference, held recently in Milan.

Monsignor Ruiz is technical coordinator of the Latin American information network (RIIAL), an institution established by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in collaboration with the Latin American bishops’ council.

He said that Project Africa arose from the experience of promoting the network culture in Latin America, that is, «in which all members not only can communicate through the technological means, but establish among themselves real ties of collaboration.»

From this experience was born the program «Management of HIV Vertical Transmission and Mother-Child Health Care in Malawi,» to assist mothers infected with the HIV virus to avoid infecting their children during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

The initiative hopes to address «the reduced availability of potable water» and the need for «effective communications channels, electric energy, knowledge of computers, and specialized personnel» in Malawi.

Health questions and the formation of a local medical team will be the responsibility of the University of Tor Vergata in Rome.

In addition to offering on-the-spot training, Project Africa is creating an information network among health centers in Malawi and the Tor Vergata Polyclinic to offer online formation, answer questions, and provide follow-ups to the programs of intervention.

Project Africa will also offer «a refresher course on medical, technological and ethical-moral aspects» according to the magisterium of the Church, said Monsignor Ruiz.

After being implemented in Malawi, the AIDS program will be extended to other African countries.

Monsignor Ruiz explained that RIIAL’s experience has taught that «before being able to make good use of the new technologies, computers, satellites, broadband and important services,» there must first be «formation» and, in particular, «formation of a network culture in the network.»

The project is the first step toward the establishment of an information network for the Church in Africa, an initiative that was presented at a meeting of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Asia and Madagascar.

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