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Pope calls attention to AIDS in developing world

Pope John Paul said on Friday the Church and its health care workers should pay particular attention to helping AIDS sufferers in the developing world, where adequate health care does not exist.

"The Church must dedicate particular attention to those areas of the world where AIDS sufferers do not have health care," he told members of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, a Vatican department on health care policy and ethics.

In his address, the 84-year-old Pope made no comment on condoms in the fight against AIDS. The issue had resurfaced last week when some sections of the media reported that Church authorities in Spain were ready to accept the use of condoms.

But he did say that Catholic health care workers should "spread, explain and defend the teaching of the Church in the health care area" and favour its inclusion in health care practices where they work.

Fr Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, secretary-general of the Spanish Bishops Conference, said they could have "a place in the global approach to tackling AIDS", but the Conference followed up with a statement emphasising that there had not been any change in the Church's position on the use of condoms.

Meanwhile the Catholic Bishops Conference of Southern Africa (SACBC) has resolved to confront what it calls the 'stigma of HIV'.

The Bishops of the region will celebrate the Eucharist next Sunday in Soweto with people infected and affected by HIV. The Bishops, who are heading 29 dioceses in Southern Africa, will anoint and pray for a representative number of HIV positive people, and bless a group of caregivers.

"Our service of the suffering humanity demands that we confront head on misconceptions around HIV/AIDS and destructive attitudes such as judgement and social stigma, fear of being labelled and ostracised", said Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, spokesperson of the SACBC.

International concern about the HIV epidemic has enabled the Church to form partnerships that allow her to offer Anti-Retroviral Therapy in 25 sites, thus making the Catholic Church the second biggest provider of ART after the state.

"The stigma of HIV and AIDS is often a great burden to families and caregivers, sometimes a greater burden than the person who is ill," said a statement released last week. "The Church recognises the role played by both traditional and scientific medicine and the inspiring example of community based caregivers."

Pope Says Church Must Help Poor AIDS Victims More (Reuters 21/1/05)
The Catholic Church in Southern Africa confronts the Stigma of HIV (Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference 20/1/05)

Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference | HIV and AIDS Office

Spanish Church acknowledges role of condoms in AIDS fight (CathNews 20/1/05)
Priest says AIDS fight must tackle 'sex object' culture (CathNews 1/12/04)

Fidelity will halt AIDS, says Pope (The Advertiser 24/1/05)

24 Jan 2005