World AIDS Day: Sant'Egidio strives to save Africa's future
By Vatican News staff writer
The Community of Sant'Egidio is working to "save Africa's future" by fighting inequality in the sphere of healthcare, access to treatments and medicines. Sant'Egidio, a Christian community bringing together communities in more than 70 countries globally, dedicates a special outreach to the poor and those living on the margins of society, witnessing to the Gospel through charitable commitment and promoting world peace.
Echoing Pope Francis' appeal at his Wednesday General Audience on World AIDS Day for a "renewed commitment of solidarity to ensure fair and effective health care", Sant'Egidio issued a statement highlighting the work of its "DREAM" programme which launched in 2002 and is now present in ten African countries. The project works closely with African women especially, since they represent the fulcrum of the family and society in general, by teaching and sharing a new "culture of healthcare" through Dream's 50 clinics offering the latest diagnostics and treatments for those living with HIV. More than half a million persons have been assisted through this programme that has facilitated the birth of 120,000 children without HIV, despite being born from HIV-positive mothers.
The theme of the 2021 World AIDS Day is: “End inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics.” Sant'Egidio's DREAM programme has had this aim from the start by helping develop local health systems with a long-term sustainable model, ensuring best results at the lowest costs. This includes offering medicines free of charge, training local staff, offering patients counseling, prevention and testing services. The treatment efforts are accompanied with essential awareness-raising and prevention activities on health and care issues, especially for young people.
The DREAM programme also deals with the Covid-19 pandemic, working to get vaccines out to millions of Africans still waiting for them or unable to access them. Worries are increasing that the door is being shut on Africa due to the latest omicron Covid variant, which could worsen an already precarious situation marked by lack of Covid vaccines putting those living with HIV at even higher risk for serious health complications. DREAM has launched an appeal for a fair distribution of vaccines, not only to promote equity and justice, but also since "saving Africa means saving everyone."
Sant'Egidio in its statement notes that we are entering the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, while we are now in the fifth decade of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a disease that continues to kill. An estimated 79.3 million people have become infected with HIV since the start and 36.3 million have died from AIDS-related illnesses according to UNAIDS. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), two-thirds of HIV-positive people, 25.7 million people, live in Africa, 80% of whom are women aged between 15 and 19.