For World AIDS Day, Cardinal Focuses on Children

Says Growing Up Is a Basic Human Right

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ROME, NOV. 24, 2009 ( No child should have to suffer just because he was born in a country with a high AIDS rate and a poor medical system, the president of Caritas Internationalis has declared as the global Catholic aid agency turns the focus of World AIDS Day to children.

Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of the agency, is calling for immediate action to prevent the deaths of children with HIV in poor countries.

World AIDS Day is Dec. 1. Its theme this year is “Universal Access and Human Rights.”

“It’s a basic human right that children grow up to become adults and yet half of children with HIV die before their second birthday because they live in poor countries where access to adequate care is limited,” the cardinal lamented. “For many, the promise of universal access is coming too late.”

“Too late for people like one mother in South Africa whose child died on her back as she raced him to hospital. He had an AIDS-related illness, like his two siblings who also died. The mother is now getting help from Caritas, but she faces the daily pain of having lost three children who never got access to proper AIDS care,” Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga said.

It’s about humanity

The Caritas president called for support of the agency’s Haart for Children campaign.

HAART stands for Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy, the term given to treatment regimens to aggressively suppress viral replication and slow the progress of HIV disease.

The campaign encourages governments, pharmaceutical companies and the global community to ensure children have early access to HIV and TB testing and treatment.

“No mother or father should have to watch helplessly as their child dies,” the cardinal said. “No child should have to suffer because they were born in a country with a high AIDS rate and a poor health system. Universal access isn’t about geography, it’s about humanity. It’s about reducing suffering and saving lives. It’s about allowing children to grow up and flourish.”

Up to 2 million children under age 15 are living with HIV. Around 15 million children under 18 have lost one or both parents to an AIDS-related illness.

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