Advances in the treatment of HIV/AIDS “give witness to the possibilities for beneficial outcome when all sectors of society unite in common purpose.”

This was the sentiment expressed by Pope Francis to the 6,000 participants of the International AIDS Society’s 8th Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention.

The Holy Father sent a message to the conference through Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. It was addressed to Dr. Julio Montaner, Director of the British Columbia Center of Excellence in HIV/AIDS at St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver, and Co-Chairperson of the Conference.

The 78-year-old Pontiff assured the participants of his prayers “that all advances in pharmacology, treatment, and research will be matched by a firm commitment to promote the integral development of each person as a beloved child of God.”

According to Caritas, Dr. Montaner shed tears after reading the Holy Father’s letter, saying: “I love Pope Francis!…If he ‘gets’ it, on the need for early treatment of HIV, why are some scientists still debating this?”

St. Paul’s is a Catholic-inspired institution, founded by the Sisters of Providence, and has distinguished itself for HIV care as well as cutting-edge scientific research to demonstrate that early diagnosis and treatment of people living with HIV not only saves lives but also is 96% effective in preventing the further spread of the disease. Thus the major focus of this year’s Conference is “Treatment as Prevention”.

International public health experts affirmed that they now have indisputable scientific evidence that HIV/AIDS could be ended as a public health emergency by 2030 if at least 90% of all people living with HIV could be properly diagnosed, and started on effective anti-retroviral treatment to lower the amount of virus in their bodies and thus drastically decrease the number of new HIV infections in all parts of the world. (J.A.E.)