AIDS conference must live up to 'Access for all'

 CAFOD says that the XV International Aids Conference could be a pivotal moment in the battle against HIV and AIDS if it delivers on its 'Access for all' title. The conference takes place in Bangkok from 11 - 16 July. CAFOD says 'Access for all' must also mean access for faith-based organisations. CAFOD welcomes the unprecedented number of faith-based organisation given a high profile at the Bangkok meeting. CAFOD's HIV/AIDS Advisor Ann Smith will be presenting a paper at the conference. She said: "The title 'Access for all' must be developed beyond a headline grabbing slogan. Access for all has to be about making resources and skills available to everyone - from scientists, to community leaders, to religious workers. "HIV prevention and care is often reduced to one line facile solutions. Groups are polarised behind these banners that don't take into account the wider context of the HIV pandemic. CAFOD is calling for a wider understanding that allows for all the different actors, including faith-based organisations, to play a role. "There is no magic bullet for HIV/AIDS. Issues like the role of condoms in HIV prevention have been incredibly divisive. Vulnerability to HIV in the developing world is heightened by a broad range of factors including poverty, ignorance, sexual abuse, and gender inequalities. "CAFOD believes that the Catholic Church's message of fidelity and abstinence is an important element in tackling the HIV/AIDS crisis that has been wrongly overlooked. "But CAFOD also recognises that for the majority of people decisions about sexual behaviour are constrained by economic, legal and gender-related powerlessness. CAFOD understands that the scientific evidence to date shows that correctly used every time, good quality condoms provide protection against the transmission of HIV, considerably reducing the risk of infection, though not removing it completely. CAFOD-funded programmes are in line with Catholic teaching, and also ensure that people have accurate and complete information about HIV prevention." CAFOD says 'Access for all' must also not be reduced simply to access to Anti Retro Viral Drugs, but be seen as access to basic healthcare. Ann Smith said: "Access to ARV drugs is also seen as another quick fix measure. But this must be set alongside the need to strengthen provision of basic healthcare. The flood of money being poured into HIV and AIDS work must be spent on strengthening infrastructures, skills and community capacity, not just on drugs."

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