In hopes of combating “ignorance” about the Catholic Church’s response to AIDS, the Catholic charity Caritas Internationalis will take part in the 27th International AIDS Conference to be held this August in Mexico City. At the conference the charity will join 25,000 participants who include internationally-known experts and decision makers.
Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, the Special Advisor on HIV for Caritas Internationalis, will participate in the conference. Speaking in a press release, Monsignor Vitillo described the conference as an opportunity to share as much new knowledge and experience as possible.
He also said one challenge facing Caritas Internationalis is the “ignorance” of the Catholic Church’s response to AIDS.
"We need to learn better how to let our light shine and not hide it under a bushel basket," Monsignor Vitillo advised.
Recently, dissenting Catholics published an open letter in a major U.S. newspaper claiming that Catholic teaching on contraception is hindering AIDS prevention efforts.
Monsignor Vitillo noted that Caritas Internationalis has offered leadership and education about HIV and AIDS for the past twenty years. Caritas has opposed AIDS-related stigma and discrimination and promoted access to treatment for all disease victims, in cooperation with the United Nations and other organizations, he said.
He explained that securing funding for Catholic AIDS relief work is a major challenge because only a small amount of pledged money goes to religious organizations, even though they provide a large proportion of care for people with HIV and AIDS.
The monsignor said Caritas Internationalis has worked to obtain more equitable funding.
"Because of our motivation and roots in Catholic teaching," he said, "Caritas is not just professionally competent, but we are interested in the whole person and we try to help each person realize their God-given dignity. That requires attention to physical, emotional, social and pastoral needs."
The Mexico City conference will last from August 3-8. On August 5, Caritas Internationalis, Caritas Mexico, the Catholic HIV/AIDS Network and the Jesuit community in Mexico will host Catholic organizations’ delegates in an evening of prayer and discussion.