VATICAN CITY(EWTN News/CNA)—To mark World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers appealed for universal access to life-saving treatment for all AIDS victims and urged others to show solidarity with them.
“Although the international community began to work against this infection over 20 years ago, unfortunately it is estimated that 1.8 million people still die every year because of HIV. These are people who could lead normal lives if they only had access to suitable pharmacological therapies, those known as antiretroviral therapies,” the council’s president, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, said Dec. 1.
The development of suitable treatments means that AIDS patients’ deaths, and the sufferings this causes their families, are “no longer justifiable.”
The archbishop said the annual observance is also a time to promote prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child and to educate others in a “truly correct and responsible” approach to sexuality.
The day is also an occasion to “relaunch the fight against social prejudice and to reaffirm the need for moral, spiritual and, as far as this is possible, material proximity to those who have contracted the infection and to their family relatives.”
Archbishop Zimowski also emphasized the “fundamental importance” of educating everyone, especially the younger generations, in a sexuality based upon natural law and “illuminated by the word of God.”
“The Church and her magisterium ask for a lifestyle that privileges abstinence, conjugal faithfulness and the rejection of sexual promiscuity,” he explained, emphasizing that this is a part of “integral development” to which people and communities have a right.
The archbishop thanked those who have worked to help AIDS victims and praised their “wonderful and important work.”
Father Bob Vitillo, the Caritas Internationalis special advisor on HIV/AIDS, told Vatican Radio the World AIDS Day goal of “Getting to Zero” new patients is much more attainable than it was in past decades.
“It’s more a possibility now, and we need to articulate that and work towards it,” he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama pledged Dec. 1 to increase access to life-saving drugs for AIDS victims in the U.S. and around the world. He said the U.S. will help 6 million people in countries hardest hit by the virus access antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2013, an increase from the original U.S. goal of 2 million. He also announced plans to boost spending on HIV treatment in the U.S. by $50 million.
World AIDS Day has been observed since 1988. More than 30 million people have died of the disease. More than 33 million people presently live with the HIV virus.