General Debate of the High-level Meeting on HIV/AIDS
8 July 2021
The Holy See welcomes the progress that has been achieved in the past five years, and indeed over the past twenty years since the first High-level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. Key aspects of that progress include significant reductions in AIDS-related mortality and greatly improved anti-retroviral treatment access.
Progress, however, has been accompanied by setbacks and continued challenges: while HIV infection rates have significantly decreased in many places, they have increased in others over the past decade. Of the estimated 38 million people living with HIV, 12 million remain untreated, including an estimated 7 million unaware that they have HIV. Furthermore, poverty, lack of education and poor healthcare contribute to both the risk of HIV infection and difficulties in accessing testing and treatment.
The global HIV epidemic will not end without addressing the root causes for its spread, such as by discouraging risk-taking behaviors and encouraging responsible and healthy relationships, particularly among young people. This can and must be done in ways that do not stigmatize or discriminate against those who are living with HIV. National ownership, cultural sensitivity, and community involvement are key to ensuring successful HIV responses.
Among those least served in HIV prevention and care are children. As the Secretary-General’s report notes, many older children slip through the cracks due to weak health systems and poor follow-up. Moreover, even when families can access healthcare, many HIV medications are not formulated for children. To address this, the Holy See’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development convened five high-level dialogues on gaps in pediatric HIV and tuberculosis prevention and treatment, culminating in the “2020 Rome Action Plan," adopted last November. The action plan includes pledges from international, governmental, and intergovernmental entities, pharmaceutical and medical diagnostic companies, faith-based and non-governmental organizations, and others, to ensure affordable, appropriate, and accessible HIV medicines and diagnostic tools.
The Holy See firmly believes that we can get back on track to end HIV/AIDS and pledges to do its part. Catholic institutions, which provide an estimated 25 percent of AIDS care worldwide, are also working to care for those living with HIV/AIDS and ensure that all who need it receive such care. Efforts such as these, as Pope Francis has noted, help ensure that “children… can write a new page of history, free of HIV-AIDS.”
Paediatric HIV & TB: Rome Action Plan,
Pope Francis, Greeting at Zimpeto Hospital, Maputo, Mozambique, 6 September 2019.