Twelve young people are walking 45 miles over this Bank Holiday weekend with a simple message on their T-shirts: Africa doesn't have to die of AIDS. Life expectancy is falling dramatically in Africa, where 34 million people have the virus. But so far the west has said AIDS in Africa can only be prevented, not treated. Which is why babies are no longer born with HIV in Europe and the US, yet in Africa this remains one of the most common forms of transmission. A group of Christians who belong to the Community of Sant'Egidio say that prevention of HIV-AIDS isn't working, and that it's time to start treating the virus. Sant'Egidio, which is based in Rome but has communities worldwide - including one in London - has begun an AIDS treatment programme in Mozambique, testing and treating pregnant mothers so that they, and their babies, can live normal lives. The community is walking from Rochester to Canterbury is to raise money for the project, which is supported by Sue Ryder Care. They also want to advertise the message that Africa need not die of Aids - but that it depends on us. One of the walkers, Dr Austen Ivereigh, visited the project in Mozambique and came back stunned by what he saw. "The moment it really hit me was in a paediatric ward in a hospital in the capital, Maputo. There were three mothers sitting by the beds of their children who had the virus, looking down at the children they had given death to. I found myself wondering: who was it who decided Africa cannot be cured?" Sant'Egidio's project in Mozambique is the first of its kind in Africa. Doctors have begun testing 10,000 pregnant women throughout the country. They expect around 1,500 women will be HIV-positive. Sant'Egidio and Sue Ryder Care will treat them with antiretroviral drugs in their homes, saving both mother and child. Dr Ivereigh says the project is prophetic: "in 20 years' time we'll be scandalised that in 2002 African babies were born with HIV- AIDS and we all assumed we could nothing". The Community of Sant'Egidio is a movement affiliated to the Catholic Church but made up of Christians of different denominations. Its members commit themselves to prayer and work with the poor. AIDS in sub Saharan Africa has so far claimed more lives than the genocides of Rwanda and Burundi put together. Read about the project in: www.thetablet.co.uk/cgi-bin/archive_db.cgi?tablet-00588 For more information on the Community of Sant'Egidio go to: Good News - www.ccr.org.uk/gn0205/g0205ai1.htm Email Austen on email@example.com
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