Catholic agencies call on world to step up fight against AIDS

 After three days of heated debate at the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV and AIDS (UNGASS), in New York, CAFOD says that more has to be done to help and support the millions of people living with HIV and AIDS across the world. CAFOD's Director Chris Bain was part of the delegation of the Caritas International, the alliance of Catholic Church aid agencies which attended the debate. He said: "It was three days of intense negotiations between UN member states as well as amongst civil society groups. "In a week that marks the 25th anniversary of the first documented Aids cases, we still need to do a lot more." Government leaders had gathered in New York to renew the promises they made in 2001 and further commit to the fight against HIV and AIDS in a form of a new Declaration of Commitment, and there was also a strong civil society presence to lobby governments. Chris Bain pointed out that whilst there was some progress in recognising the need for universal access to treatment, care, support and prevention, particularly focussed on the rights and welfare of women and children, the declaration was a disappointment. He said: "In the final draft of the Declaration we hoped to see world governments building on the promises made in 2001, committing to real measurable targets both in funding and in providing effective responses to individuals and countries worst affected by HIV and AIDS. Instead, we have good intentions without, as yet, the global political will to make them a reality. "National governments have been asked to set targets this year but they must be set within an international framework that can be tracked and monitored." "The Declaration was weak in its commitment to develop and fund local healthcare systems, which have been neglected yet are crucial in supporting the health needs of a country overall." "But one of the biggest disappointments is that the Declaration does not make strong enough links to the effects of poverty and HIV and AIDS, as these are intrinsically related. Tackle the root causes of poverty and you tackle the root causes of this infection." Mr Bain comments that it had been a difficult process and that civil society was expecting more from this UNGASS meeting, however CAFOD along with other faith based organizations will be working to hold governments to account both nationally and internationally, to push for stronger commitments and increased, sustained and targeted funding. "We will build on the positive commitments of this Declaration, continuing to serve the millions of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS and holding governments to their promises."

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