VATICAN CITY – A papal foundation dedicated to AIDS patients may expand its services to include a global programme of distributing anti-AIDS drugs, a Vatican official said.

The initiative would respond to the shortage of antiretroviral and other drugs in poorer countries, where the vast majority of AIDS patients receive inadequate treatment, Msgr Jean-Marie Mupendawatu, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, said in an interview on July 21 with the Vatican newspaper.

Msgr Mupendawatu is a delegate to the Good Samaritan Foundation, established by Blessed John Paul II in 2004 to provide economic support to the sick who are most in need, particularly those suffering from AIDS.

Msgr Mupendawatu said the foundation planned to strengthen its activity, especially in Africa, by increasing its promotion of donations of pharmaceutical and medical material, and by working more closely with local Catholic leaders to place the church in the forefront of the care for AIDS patients.
To favour these efforts, he said, the foundation may open offices on every continent, which would function in coordination with the central office in Rome.

“The foundation is also studying the possibility of creating its own ‘pharmaceutical centre’ which would allow the collection and distribution of medicines in poor countries,” he said. The centre would work in cooperation with other Church agencies.

Msgr Mupendawatu said that while more than 25 percent of the global health care to AIDS patients is provided by Catholic institutions, the Church needs to do even more in the face of the epidemic, which infects about 7,000 additional people each day.

One of the Church’s priorities is to help make “universal and free access to treatment” a reality for all those infected with AIDS, he said. Today, only about 5 percent of people with AIDS patients receive adequate care, he said.

Msgr Mupendawatu said the Church’s insistence that education in responsible sexuality be part of any anti-AIDS strategy has found appreciation in scientific circles.

The Church’s position is that effective prevention of AIDS must include the abandonment of high-risk behaviour and the adoption of a “balanced sexuality” based on premarital chastity and marital fidelity, he said. – CNS