Bishop Jose Luis Redrado Machite, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Health Workers spoke with CNA in his office in the Vatican City on World AIDS Day. In battling the AIDS epidemic he said, “We should focus our efforts not just on material and physical needs, but also on all-around formation of individuals as human beings."
"We've come a long way since the 1980's," said Redrado in reference to development in knowledge and treatment of the virus, "but there's a tremendous fight going on right now."
UNAIDS reports that 33.4 million people were infected worldwide as of 2008, and there are an estimated 7,400 new cases daily.
Educational institutions have made great inroads in preparing people to battle the realities of poverty, accessing medical care, and surviving in the developing nations most affected by the AIDS epidemic, continued the Secretary, "but it runs deeper than that, for a lasting solution we must concentrate on the individual person."
"Today, we so often speak only of prophylactics, politics or economics when discussing strategies for eliminating AIDS. We should also speak about the formation of people and ways to orient them to be better prepared for the fight! This is a fight for life!"
"We're talking about a need to form people completely so they have a lifestyle based on values, thus a platform from which to react to, and act in, the world."
Pope Benedict XVI, noted Redrado, transmitted this message through his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” as he has on other occasions during his Pontificate.
"The answers are there, we just have to be open to them. You have to be listening."
In the encyclical, the Pontiff wrote of education:
“The term 'education' refers not only to classroom teaching and vocational training — both of which are important factors in development — but to the complete formation of the person. In this regard, there is a problem that should be highlighted: in order to educate, it is necessary to know the nature of the human person, to know who he or she is. The increasing prominence of a relativistic understanding of that nature presents serious problems for education, especially moral education, jeopardizing its universal extension. Yielding to this kind of relativism makes everyone poorer and has a negative impact on the effectiveness of aid to the most needy populations, who lack not only economic and technical means, but also educational methods and resources to assist people in realizing their full human potential.”
The bishop continued, "This is what we must invest in... and this is true for everyone. We often speak of Africa, because (AIDS) is such a scourge there, but we must also speak of the West and the East. We are all involved, and we must receive proper formation so as to make good decisions based on respect, respect for ourselves and respect for others."
With the guidance of a solid value system, discussion about condoms becomes less relevant to the debate, said the bishop, referring to the the media backlash after a comment the Holy Father made last March in Africa about prophylactics aggravating the AIDS epidemic.
Condoms don't teach anything but reckless disregard, said Redrado. "It's more difficult to educate."
"Values are the key."