2003 World Aids Day

Fr. Wilfrid McGreal, O.Carm., reminds us that December 1st is World AIDS Day and the importance to reflect about the AIDS world problem, to understand, act and pray. Everyday 13,000 people become HIV positive, mainly in developing countries, the poor of the world have not access to the proper medication. To be close to those who suffers and are anguished is a commitment of our vocation to Justice and Peace as Christians and as Carmelites (* Catholics care for one fourth of total aids patients! See the text in English).


Día Mundial de la AIDS 2003

P. Wilfrid McGreal, O.Carm., nos recuerda que el 1 diciembre es el Día Mundial de la AIDS, y también la importancia de reflexionar sobre el problema mundial del SIDA, para entender, actuar y orar. Todos los días 13.000 personas se vuelven HIV positivo, sobretodo en los países en vía de desarrollo, los pobres del mundo no tienen acceso a una medicación adecuada. Estar cerca de los que sufren o están agobiados es un compromiso de nuestra vocación por la Justicia y la Paz como cristianos y Carmelitas (* ¡Los católicos prestan asistencia a una cuarta parte del total de los enfermos de sida! Vea el texto en inglés).


Giornata Mondiale dell’AIDS 2003

P. Wilfrid McGreal, O.Carm., ci ricorda che il 1 dicembre è la Giornata Mondiale dell’AIDS, e l’importanza di riflettere sul problema mondiale dell’AIDS, per capirlo, agire e pregare. Ogni giorno 13.000 persone diventano HIV positivi, i poveri del mondo non hanno accesso alla medicazione adeguata. Essere vicino a quelli che soffrono e sono angosciati è un impegno della nostra vocazione di Giustizia e Pace come Cristiani e Carmelitani (* I cattolici assistono una quarta parte del totale dei malati del mondo con aids! Vedi il testo in inglese)

World Aids Day
World Aids Day - December 1st
Promoted by the World Health Organization

World Aids Day is fixed for December 1st every year and is meant to remind the world community of the reality of HIV/AIDS. It is a day to raise awareness, to inform and to focus on some aspect or effects of the virus and the impact on those who have HIV/AIDS status. Of late the emphasis has been on Information, Discrimination, Stigma and the status of women.

Awareness of HIV/AIDS goes back to about 1980 and the first impact of the virus was felt in USA and especially among the gay community. The origins of the virus seem to be located in Central Africa but research as to the origin and the nature of the virus itself has been complex. For a while HIV/AIDS seemed to be associated with the gay community and was largely confined to USA and Western Europe. Another group that began to be affected were hemophiliacs and soon it became apparent that the virus was transmitted through blood and intimate bodily fluids. Therefore the means of transmission would include intercourse, blood transfusions and the use of dirty needles by drug addicts. The HIV/AIDS virus operated by breaking down the immune system and brought on terminal illness with alarming rapidity. The virus attained the status of a "plague-like illness" and became the focus of scare stories, myths and prejudices. Governments in the developed world mounted massive information campaigns and the pharmaceutical industry began the search for a cure. The complexity of the virus made the search for a cure extremely difficult.

While campaigns in the developed world did much to contain the spread of the virus in these countries HIV/AIDS began to spread to the developing world. Here the virus soon affected every area of society and a combination of factors ensured that the situation took on the nature of a pandemic. The truth was that in developing countries there was no infrastructure to combat the virus either by education or the use of drugs.

What is the situation today? It is estimated that some 13,000 people become HIV positive every day and over 90% are in developing countries. More than half of those who become positive are under 24. This pandemic is most acutely felt in sub Saharan Africa where women are most vulnerable both biologically and socially. Incidence of HIV/AIDS is high in South East Asia as a result of sex tourism while Eastern Europe is seeing more and more people testing positive. Meanwhile in developing countries HIV/AIDS is on the increase as young people become careless and also as older people practise casual sex.

In Africa many Church agencies have developed excellent education programmes and in countries like Uganda where there has been government supports progress has been made. In the long run abstinence is the ideal but the reality is many young people are sexually active before they are 15. The reality of migrant workers means that many men have more than one partner and this causes vulnerability. Many agencies, including Christian bodies, see the use of condoms as a means of preventing infection, but the official teaching of the Catholic Church opposes their use. However, the Bishop in charge of AIDS policy in South Africa, Kevin Dowling, has called on the ban on condoms to be modified in the context of real-life choices faced by millions of Africans affected with AIDS. He argues if the condom significantly helps to prevent the transmission of a life threatening disease it is licit under the principle of "double effect". The condom prevents the transmission of death, it is not being used as a contraceptive and therefore anti-life. The bishop still holds that abstinence and fidelity were the most effective ways to combat the virus.

A negative factor in combating the HIV/AIDS virus has been the attitude of denial by some governments either about the existence of the virus or its lethal effects. This spirit of denial has impeded health and education initiatives and contributed to the overall problem. The other and more crucial issue is the availability of drugs to combat the virus. While there has been as yet no drug discovered that would be the antidote to the virus, various drugs used as combination therapy can either build up the immune system or check the advance of the virus. In the USA and UK, many of those who had been tested positive with the virus have been able, with the help of combination therapy, to take up their lives again. Such therapies extend life by at least ten years and more in some cases. These drugs are expensive and cost makes them inaccessible to the developing world. Attempts are being made to ensure that generic versions of these drugs are available in sub Saharan Africa. However, such availability and the opening up of the market depend on the major drugs companies and the USA. The American government makes noises about helping but up to date vested commercial interest seem to stall what seem like positive actions.

The needs surrounding those affected by HIV/AIDS are enormous. The effects of the various on development are catastrophic and yet the will to tackle the problem and help millions of suffering is sadly lacking. World Aids Day is a necessary event to raise awareness and be a renewed call to action and understanding.

We invite the Carmelite communities to pray:

Loving, tender God you hear all those who cry out to you in their need, bless and support those who live with HIV/AIDS, may they know you love them and will lead them through times of darkness and need into your light and peace, grant this Creator God. Amen.

Fr Wilfrid McGreal, the author of this text, has for the last six year been the Chair of Positive Contact Kentwide a charity offering help to those affected by HIV/AIDS in the south east of the UK. 31/10/03. He also shares this media release bellow:

PO BOX 24632

LIGHT A CANDLE FOR JUSTICE will be the theme for a Mass to be celebrated in London on the eve of World AIDS Day - 30 November 2003. The theme reflects the UN World AIDS Campaign for 2002/2003: Confronting Stigma & Prejudice.

A number of Catholic organisations are coming together to support this event, including diocesan justice and peace groups, Catholic HIV/AIDS ministries, and minority ethnic community chaplaincies and those working with lesbian and gay Catholics.

The Mass will be celebrated on Sunday, 30 November, 3.00 p.m., at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street, London W.1. Dr. Robert Kaggwa M.Afr. (Missionary of Africa) will preside and preach. Dr Kaggwa is a prominent Ugandan Catholic theologian, currently holding the 1st Cardinal Hume Fellowship at the Margaret Beaufort Institute in Cambridge. Previously, he lectured at the Mill Hill Missionary Institute, in London.

The Mass will feature various expressions, in languages, song and movement, of the diversity of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. It takes place on the 1st Sunday of Advent when the Advent Candle is first lit. The Advent Candle will be placed in a crown of thorns to recognise that HIV is not only a burden, but also an opportunity and challenge for Catholics - a gift wrapped in thorns. The congregation will form one great mass of light as, with individual candles, they express their commitment to work for justice and to combat HIV/AIDS related stigma and prejudice. Refreshments will follow the Mass.

All are welcome!

Further details:
Martin Pendergast, Executive Secretary – CAPS, 020 8986 0807. martin@lymegrove.clara.co.uk

The following sites give additional information:

http://www.aids.org/ - AIDS.ORG - to help prevent HIV infections and to improve the lives of those affected by HIV and AIDS by providing education and facilitating the free and open exchange of knowledge at an easy-to-find centralized website.
http://www.unaids.org/en/default.asp - The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS, is the main advocate for global action on the epidemic. It leads, strengthens and supports an expanded response aimed at preventing transmission of HIV, providing care and support, reducing the vulnerability of individuals and communities to HIV/AIDS, and alleviating the impact of the epidemic.
http://www.aidsportugal.com/index.php - Page with many articles and information about AIDS, available in Portuguese, Spanish and English.
http://www.diocesiverona.it/cnt/cmm/cmm_page.asp?IDDocumento=4991 - "Armagheddo: AIDS, la verità taciuta" articolo in italiano di un missionario del PIME in Uganda.
http://www.santegidio.org/it/amicimondo/aids/programma.htm - Il programma di lotta all'infezione da HIV e all’AIDS nell'Africa avviato dalla Comunità di Sant'Egidio.
http://www.santegidio.org/it/amicimondo/aids/news/20030325_manuale.htm - DREAM (Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS in Mozambique) è un programma di controllo, prevenzione, trattamento, in altre parole di lotta globale, all'infezione da HIV in Mozambico.
http://www.fhi.org/en/index.htm - Family Health International (FHI) is dedicated to improving lives, knowledge, and understanding worldwide. We pursue our mission through a highly diversified program of research, education, and services in family health and HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Available to visit fhi.org also in: Spanish | French | Russian | Arabic
http://www.fhi.org/en/HIVAIDS/Publications/SuccessStories/FBO.htm - Faith-based Organizations in HIV/AIDS: Catholics at Work in Nigeria.
http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/Falls/2073/Igreja.htm - Católicos contra a AIDS: grupo católico que está tentando criar unidade nos serviços de assistência, já em funcionamento em ONGs ligadas a Igreja, e implantar programas de Prevenção Educativa.
http://www.sedos.org/italiano/testimoni_2.htm - L'epidemia di AIDS in Africa - Una catastrofe quasi ignorata
http://freespace.virgin.net/cbody.pos/CBPFrame.htm - Cardiff Body Positive (CBP) is a self-help organisation for men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, their partners, carers and relatives and the bereaved. We aim to assist those living with HIV/AIDS to transform their diagnosis into positive views and actions about staying healthy and living well.

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Last revised: 26 April 2005