Author Avatar



Share post:


1 December 2004


To the Presidents of the Episcopal
Conferences and to the Bishops Responsible for Pastoral Care in Health in their
Episcopal Conferences, and to all the People of God


Dear Brothers,


1. For some years now, the World AIDS Day
has been celebrated on 1 December. For this occasion, this year as well, I
would like in my capacity as President of the Pontifical Council for Health
Pastoral Care to send a message communicating the nearness and encouragement of
the Church to all those who are fighting against this devastating pandemic, to
those who care for and treat people afflicted by HIV/AIDS, and to these last,
who are personally experiencing the mystery of human suffering. This year the
organisation of the United Nations for the AIDS programme (UNAIDS) has
dedicated this year to women, to girls and HIV/AIDS, because of their greater
vulnerability, compared to men, to contracting the HIV/AIDS virus. A study has
demonstrated that they are infected 2.5 more times than men.


2. I share the concern of the international
community about the dramatic picture of the consequences of this epidemic for
the health, the living conditions, the prospects, the status and the dignity of
women and girls in many regions of the world. Indeed, the impact of HIV/AIDS on
women aggravates inequality and hinders progress towards the universality of
rights. In addition, the more this infection advances amongst women, who are
the columns of families and communities, the more the danger of social
breakdown increases. The Church has always defended women and their very great
dignity with especial vigour and is struggling to fight those examples of
discrimination which still today in a great deal of our society require greater
efforts to secure the elimination of disparities in relation to women in such
sectors as education, the defence of health, and work.


3. HIV/AIDS is one of the most devastating
epidemics of our times; it is a human drama which, because of its gravity and
enormity, is one of the greatest health care challenges at a planetary level
that now exists. The data presented in the report of the United Nations
“The Impact of AIDS” of 2004 are clear in their message: since the
appearance of this epidemic (in the 1980s) more than twenty-two million people
have died in the world because of AIDS and at the present time forty-two
million people live with HIV/AIDS. In 2003, 2.9 million people died because of
AIDS and 4.8 million people were infected with HIV/AIDS. AIDS is the principal
cause of death in people in the fifteen to forty-nine age band. In many
countries, and especially in Africa and in the most afflicted countries such as
Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, the AIDS epidemic spread rapidly bringing
with it illness, death, poverty and pain. Recently, this pandemic has
forcefully struck countries with a high number of inhabitants such as China and India. It is estimated that by 2025 AIDS will have caused the deaths of thirty-one million
people in India and eighteen million people in China.


4. The situation for children is dramatic.
Indeed, according to the data contained in the report of 2004 of UNICEF, UNAIDS
and USAID, “Children on the Brink,” between 2001 and 2003 the overall
number of children who have been made orphans by AIDS grew from 11.5 million to
15 million, in large part in Africa. It is estimated that by 2010 there will be
in Sub-Saharan Africa 18.4 million children made orphans by HIV/AIDS. In 2003
alone 5.2 million children were made orphans by this epidemic. In addition,
their increasing number is changing (above all in Africa) the traditional
system of the welcoming of orphans into families because these, which are
already poor, find it difficult to take responsibility for such children.


5. On many occasions John Paul II has
addressed this question and has provided us with illuminating approaches that
throw light on the nature of this disease, its prevention, the behaviour of
patients and those who look after them, as well as the role that civil
authorities and scientists should perform. I would like to emphasise his
thinking as regards the immunodeficiency of moral and spiritual values and the
accompanying of AIDS victims, to whom full care and services should be provided
because they are the most in need. In particular, in his message for the World
Day of the Sick 2005 (nn. 3-4), the Holy Father emphasises that the drama of
AIDS is a “pathology of the spirit” and that for it to be combated in
a responsible way it is necessary to increase prevention through education in
respect for the sacred value of life and formation as regards the correct
practice of sexuality.


6. We must banish the stigma that so often
makes society harsh in relation to the AIDS victim. In order to dissipate the
prejudices of those who fear the proximity of AIDS victims because they want to
avoid contagion, we should remember that AIDS is only transmitted through the
three routes of blood, the link between a mother and her unborn child, and
sexual contact. All these routes of transmission must be combated effectively
and thereby eliminated. As regards sexual contact, we should remember that
contagion must be eliminated through responsible behaviour and observance of
the virtue of chastity. In addition, the Pope, when referring to the Synod for
Africa of 1994, repeats a recommendation formulated by the Bishops who took
part in that Synod: “the affection, the joy, the happiness and the peace
procured through Christian marriage and faithfulness, like the safety conferred
by chastity, must be continually presented to the faithful, and especially to
the young.”


7. Responding to the sorrowful appeal of
the Holy Father, the Catholic Church, ever since the appearance of this
terrible scourge, has always made her contribution both to preventing the
transmission of the HIV virus and to looking after AIDS victims and their
families at the medical/assistance, social, spiritual and pastoral levels. At
the present time, 26.7% of the centres dedicated to treating HIV/AIDS in the
world are Catholic centres. The projects and programmes involving education and
prevention in relation to AIDS, and the care, treatment and pastoral
accompanying of HIV/AIDS victims, that local Churches, religious institutes and
lay associations promote with love, a sense of responsibility and a spirit of
charity, are great in number. Side by side with this inestimable and
praiseworthy endeavour, the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care has met
the request of the Holy Father John Paul II who, when addressing the Bishops of
the Episcopal Conferences of America, Australia and Europe, asked them to join
with the pastors of Africa to address in an effective way the AIDS emergency.


8. In order to achieve great efficacy in
the fight against HIV/AIDS, I would like here to propose again certain policies
for action that I pointed out in my speech to the XXVI Special Session of the
General Assembly on HIV/AIDS of the United Nations (New York, 2001):


Support for overall global plans to combat


An increase in school education and the
catechesis on the values of life and sex.


The elimination of all forms of discrimination
in relation to HIV/AIDS victims.


The provision of suitable information on this


An invitation to governments to create
conditions suitable to fighting this scourge.


The fostering of a greater participation on the
part of civil society in the fight against AIDS.


Asking the industrialised countries to help the
countries that need such help in this campaign against AIDS in a way that
avoids all forms of colonialism.


A reduction to the utmost of the price of the
anti-viral drugs and medicines that are needed to treat HIV/AIDS patients.


An intensification of information campaigns in
order to avoid the transmission of the virus from mothers to their unborn


The paying of greater attention to the treatment
of, and care for, seropositive babies and the protection of children who have
been made orphans by AIDS.


The paying of greater attention to the most
vulnerable social groups.


9. I would like to conclude with the prayer
— which is of especial significance on this occasion — that the Holy Father
John Paul II dedicated on the occasion of the World Day of the Sick 2005 to all
those who experience suffering and see in the face of the person who suffers
the countenance of Christ. I invite you, my dear brothers and sisters, to make
this prayer your own:


“O Mary, Immaculate Virgin,

Woman of pain and hope,

be benevolent to each person who

and obtain for everyone fullness
of life.


Turn your maternal gaze

especially to those in Africa

who are in extreme need,

because afflicted by AIDS

or by another fatal disease.


Look at the mothers

who weep for their

look at the grandparents

who are without
sufficient resources

to support their grandchildren

who have become


Clasp all of them to your
Mother’s heart.

O Queen of Africa and the whole

Most Holy Virgin,
pray for us!”

What HIV/AIDS Can Do to Education,and What Education Can Do to HIV/AIDS
What personal data we collect and why we collect it

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *