How the Church has helped fight AIDS in Uganda, Malawi

How the Church has helped fight AIDS in Uganda, Malawi

AIDS orphans Dominic, 7, and her sister Reticia, 10, standing between parent's graves in this December 2000 file photo. Credit: UN Photo/Louise Gubb.
AIDS orphans Dominic, 7, and her sister Reticia, 10, standing between parent's graves in this December 2000 file photo. Credit: UN Photo/Louise Gubb.

.- Catholic leaders in Uganda and Malawi have issued largely positive informal progress reports on local Church efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in the African nations.

A report from the Uganda Episcopal Conference that was provided to CANAA (Catholic News Agency for Africa) stressed “the contributions that the Catholic Church has made through one of its currently running projects to the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV.”

It explained that the Ugandan bishops' AIDS Care and Treatment project has provided care to more than 54,700 clients from September to the beginning of December. Seven percent of those clients were children under the age of 15.

Catholic Health facilities in Uganda have reported providing care for 90,646 clients, though Ugandan bishops said the actual numbers may be much larger since some Catholic Health facilities have not yet switched over to a new reporting software program.

The Uganda Episcopal Conference also restructured its secretariat to bring both the Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau and the HIV/AIDS department under the umbrella of the bishops' health commission.

The report stated Catholic bishops in Uganda were involved “from the very outbreak of the epidemic in the country” in 1982. Today, all 19 dioceses in Uganda have established HIV/AIDS offices to work alongside local health coordinators.

In their report, Uganda bishops said every Ugandan is responsible for helping the nation reach its goal of zero new HIV infections.

Estimates from last year suggest some 1.6 million people in Uganda are living with AIDS. The Ugandan bishops warned that progress against HIV/AIDS is slowed by factors including complacent behavior, a lack of proper knowledge about HIV prevention, and non-disclosure of HIV status among couples.

A Monfort missionary in Malawi as also issued an informal update on the battle against HIV/AIDS in the nation.  

Father Piergiorgio Gamba told Fides Agency that there is a lot to be thankful for in Malawi. The number of HIV positive children is decreasing, along with the number of casualties from the virus.

He also told Fides Agency that 83 percent of HIV-positive Malawians are receiving antiretroviral medicine; a nearly 20 percent increase from past years.

However, Fr. Gamba said that the number of HIV-positive young people is increasing and teenaged women are accounting for more than half the population of HIV-positive persons.

Estimates from last year suggest some 1.1 million people in Malawi are living with AIDS. That's a nearly 6 percent decrease from previous years. The first case of AIDS was in Malawi was diagnosed in 1985. HIV/AIDS contraction peaked at 16.4 percent in 1999 among persons aged 15-49, according to UNAIDS.

“Since 1985 when Malawi registered its first case of AIDS, various different situations have changed; health services and assistance have certainly improved,” Fr. Gamba explained.

“However the battle is not won, the fight continues.”

Tags: AIDS, HIV/AIDS, Africa, Uganda, Milawi