Caritas Head: Give HIV Children Basic Right to Grow Up

The head of a confederation of Catholic relief, development and social service groups said Tuesday that it is a "basic human right" that children with HIV are allowed to grow up and become adults.

"[Y]et half of children with HIV die before their second birthday because they live in poor countries where access to adequate care is limited," continued Caritas Internationalis President Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga.

"For many, the promise of universal access is coming too late."

Though World AIDS Day is not until Dec. 1, Maradiaga released his remarks a week in advance, noting that immediate action is needed to prevent the deaths of children with HIV in poor countries.

Earlier this year, the confederation of 162 Roman Catholic relief, development and social service organizations launched its "Haart for children" campaign to urge governments, pharmaceutical firms and the global community to provide better testing and treatment for children with HIV and TB.

Caritas is also campaigning to improve efforts to prevent HIV from being passed on from mothers to their children.

"No mother or father should have to watch helplessly as their child dies. No child should have to suffer because they were born in a country with a high AIDS rate and a poor health system," commented Maradiaga.

"Universal access," the Catholic cardinal added, "isn't about geography, it's about humanity. It's about reducing suffering and saving lives. It's about allowing children to grow up and flourish."

According to statistics, up to two million children under the age of 15 across the world are living with HIV. Around 15 million children under 18, furthermore, have lost one or both parents to an AIDS-related illness.

Caritas currently runs HIV and AIDS programs in over a hundred countries and has been engaged in tackling the pandemic for over 20 years.

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Universal access and human rights."