MEDIA RELEASE
WORLD AIDS DAY, DECEMBER 1

Little Joyce: AIDS survivor

LITTLE Joyce, 2, waves happily at the camera, her chubby cheeks and bright eyes evidence of her good health and secure environment. As the youngest child at the Maria Teresa Nuzzo Children's Home in Nairobi, Kenya, Joyce is one of 30 orphaned children cared for by Catholic nuns from the order of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart. When their parents died of AIDS most of the children were sent to live with their grandparents or other relatives who were so poor they could hardly cater for their own needs, let alone the needs of the children.

Sister Thressia Antony, Regional Superior, writes: "For many years we tried to help them while the children lived with their relatives but we saw that these children need a safer environment to grow up in. More often than not these children were mistreated and abused by their own relatives. It is this reality that forced us to do something for these children and now we have a home for them."

Catholic Mission funds from Australia have been sent to the home to help cover general expenses such as food, water and medical care. More funding is needed, particularly for the education of the children. "Now we are faced with the new challenge of educating these children as education is the best way of offering these children a better, secure future considering they have nobody to rely on," Sister Thressia writes.

In the lead up to World AIDS Day on December 1, Catholic Mission National Director, Father Terry Bell, has urged Christians to remember the legacy of the AIDS pandemic in the developing world. "While countries such as Kenya and Uganda have managed to reverse rates of HIV infection, we must never forget those orphaned or widowed by those who have already died of AIDS and the ongoing effects of this in so many poor countries."

Findings published in AIDS Epidemic Update 2004, the annual report by the Joint United National Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organisation, released in advance of World AIDS Day, shows that the median HIV prevalence in antenatal clinics in Uganda and Kenya has fallen from 13.6 per cent in 1997-98 to 9.4 per cent in 2002 and was unchanged in 2003.

"This is good news for the longer term and a credit to those many agencies and individuals who have already been working for many years to stem the tide of the epidemic," Father Terry said. "However it is not only the AIDS patient who needs help, it is the spouses and children who are left with nobody to provide for them."

The focus of World AIDS Day 2004 is women and girls as the new figures show AIDS is growing more rapidly among these groups in almost every part of the world. The trend is most advanced in sub-Saharan Africa where the AIDS epidemic began and which is home to more than a half of the world's HIV-infected people.

"With the help of generous Australians, Catholic Mission will continue to support programs like the Maria Teresa Nuzzo Children's Home, to ensure that children such as little Joyce have a future," Father Terry said.

"Without continued support for programs such as this, orphaned children won' t get the healthcare and education they need, which will see them more likely to be exposed to AIDS as they become young adults."

During 2004 more than $1.4 million has been sent directly from Australia -the largest amount ever raised here - to help women and children in underdeveloped countries including India, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Albania and Indonesia. Projects cover education, healthcare and shelter.

Catholic Mission is the Australian arm of the Church's global mission aid agency in a worldwide network. If you would like to help Catholic Mission continue its vital work with women and children affected by the ravages of AIDS phone 1800 257 296 or go to www.catholicmission.org.au.

Footnote:
AIDS in Australia

The AIDS Epidemic Update 2004 shows that the annual number of new HIV diagnoses in Australia has gradually increased from 650 in 1998 to about 800 in 2002 which, the report authors suggest, could be linked to a revival of unsafe sex.

HIV transmission in Australia continues to be mainly through sex between men, which accounted for more than 85 per cent of new HIV diagnoses from 1997 to 2002. Injecting drug use was responsible for about 4 per cent and heterosexual intercourse for 8.5 per cent of newly acquired infections in that period. At least half the estimated 14,000 people living with HIV in Australia are receiving antiretroviral therapy.

For more information contact Terri Cowley, Media Officer, Catholic Mission on 9411 4611. Please find picture of Joyce, AIDS survivor, attache.

Terri Cowley
Media Officer
Catholic Mission
Level 5, Tower Building
47 Neridah St, Chatswood NSW 2067

Ph: (02) 9411 4611 Fax: (02) 9411 4622

www.catholicmission.org.au