In honor of World AIDS Day, Pope Benedict XVI recently gave a talk at St. Peter’s Square:
“The Church never ceases to strive to combat AIDS through her institutions and personnel dedicated to that task. I call upon everyone to make their contribution, with prayer and tangible assistance, so that people affected by the HIV virus may experience the presence of the Lord Who offers comfort and hope. Finally, I trust that, by increasing and coordinating efforts, we may manage to halt and eradicate this disease.”
A lot has changed since the first World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, 1988, thanks to the development of antiretroviral drugs and increased awareness of the dangers of promiscuity. But much work remains to be done, especially in Africa, and we at Cross Catholic are humbled to be a part of the ongoing efforts to fight the disease.
Last year, a full 72 percent of new HIV cases worldwide were in Sub-Saharan Africa. It has also been reported that half of all maternal deaths in Botswana and South Africa are due to HIV. Numbers like these tell us that the AIDS threat to the African people is still very real and very serious.
One way we are reaching out to AIDS victims is through the Mbikko Integrated Development project in Uganda, where Catholics are using education to transform a rural community plagued by prostitution, poverty, and disease. Counselors go into classrooms and have one-on-one talks with children to teach them at a young age how to protect themselves from sexual exploitation and to abstain from sex until marriage. They integrate Bible lessons into their teachings to provide a solid moral foundation for promoting a monogamous lifestyle.
In Zambia, we are working with the Franciscans’ Itimpi Community Health Care project to visit AIDS patients and other chronically ill people in their homes and provide medication, food, baby formula (HIV-infected mothers can’t breastfeed), and other care.
As we commemorate this year’s World AIDS Day, you can demonstrate Christ’s love in a powerful way by giving to one of our projects in Africa. Get involved today!