12/01/2009, 00.00
INDIA

World AIDS Day: Indian Catholics at the forefront in the care for the sick

by Nirmala Carvalho
About 80% of centres that deal with HIV is run by the Catholic Church. 140 institutes across the country, for the treatment of disease and improvement in quality of life. More than one million children orphaned by HIV, discriminated against at school and abandoned by their family.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Marginalization, lack of medical care and discrimination: HIV in India affects millions of people, both adults and children. On the occasion of World AIDS Day, celebrated today the first of December, the Indian Catholic Church reaffirms its commitment to combating the virus, promoting a "compassionate" approach which also aims to improve quality of life.

Almost 80% of centres that deal with HIV in India is run by the Catholic Church, which has founded some 140 institutions around the country. To date, the Catholic Health Association of India (Chai) has formed about 4 thousand people, including physicians and paramedical personnel. Together with five university hospitals, the network of Catholic institutions has spread to even more remote areas to provide assistance to as many people as possible.  

Bishop Percival Fernandez, president of the National St. John Academy of Medical Sciences, emphasizes the importance of a "human" approach to the sick, victims in many cases of exclusion. "There are documented incidents – he states - of children discriminated in schools. We encourage educators to show special attention to the smallest, with an approach to teaching compassion". The prelate adds that the medical and paramedical staff is attentive also to tackle cases of “depression or psychological problems" associated with the disease, trying to instill a "sense of hope" for HIV sufferers.

Pascoal Carvalho, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, remembers that "millions of Indians and hundreds of thousands of children are living with AIDS and HIV." The government treats them as if they were "invisible" and fail to implement policies that address the problem.  

Although there are no accurate figures, it is estimated that "more than one million children under 15 years in India have lost one or both parents as suffering from AIDS and" the number is growing. " The most dramatic cases of discrimination affecting children of prostitutes, street children and dalits.

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