AIDS Data Alarm Benedict XVI

Appeals for Prevention on Eve of U.N. World Day

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2005 ( Alarmed by AIDS statistics, Benedict XVI appealed to the international community to work for the prevention of the disease and to help those stricken.

The Pope’s invitation, made on the eve of the U.N. World Day against AIDS, resounded today in St. Peter’s Square at the end of the general audience, attended by more than 23,000 people.

The Holy Father called the international community to «renewed commitment in the work of prevention and in solidaristic assistance to those who have been stricken.»

Raising his voice, Benedict XVI said: «The figures published are alarming!»

The Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers today published the message of its president, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, written for the World Day.

In the message, the cardinal estimates that, as of this year, there were 40.3 million people suffering from the HIV virus, 2.3 million of them under the age of 15.

Moreover, this year alone, 4.9 million people contracted the HIV virus, 700,000 of whom are younger than 15.

In 2005, 3.1 million people already have died from AIDS; 570,000 of them were under age 15.

«Following closely the example of Christ, the Church has always considered the care of the sick as an integral part of her mission,» Benedict XVI said in his appeal.

He added: «I encourage, therefore, the numerous initiatives, in particular those promoted by ecclesial communities, to eradicate this sickness and I feel close to AIDS patients and their families, invoking for them the Lord’s help and consolation.»

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