Church makes progress on HIV initiative

A sign aimed at drug companies during the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam in July (CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

An initiative to properly treat children living with HIV has gained new momentum as organisations and pharmaceutical companies respond to a Vatican push to look past profit and do the right thing. Source: Crux.

Few children in the developed world get infected with HIV anymore, so there’s little market for drug makers to earn a return on their investment. Children do get infected in poor countries, however, but there’s little profit to be made selling them drugs.

Enter Pope Francis.

In 2016, he convened the first of several meetings within the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, bringing Church leaders, international health officials and CEOs of some of the largest drug companies into the same small room where it was hard to hide.

“It’s like being sent to the principal’s office. Everybody has to show up and stand before Cardinal Turkson and Fr Bob,” said Sandra Thurman, chief strategy officer for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a US government program that funds AIDS response around the globe.

She was referring to Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and Msgr Robert Vitillo, secretary general of the International Catholic Migration Commission and long the Vatican’s point man on HIV and AIDS.

“It’s the power of someone standing before you who looks at you with authority and says, ‘This is the right thing to do, this is the moral thing to do, this is the ethical thing to do. And you, Company X and Organisation Y, you are doing the right thing by making sure we get treatment to children,'” Ms Thurman said.

“We were lagging on a paediatric AIDS response, but we’ve finally gotten traction because of this incredible Vatican initiative,” she added.

“Children have always been the missing link in the AIDS response,” said Stuart Kean, a consultant to the World Council of Churches, which supports the Vatican initiative.

“Getting children onto the agenda has been difficult because they’re not physically here and they’re not making noise. So it’s other people who have to speak up for them. Which is why the meetings in Rome are great. We finally got all the people who need to listen into the same room,” Mr Kean said.


Vatican makes progress on pushing drug availability for kids with HIV (Crux)

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