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HIV and AIDS

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has supported HIV and AIDS interventions for more than 20 years, almost since the beginning of the pandemic. Our 250 HIV and AIDS projects in 52 countries provide comprehensive and holistic services for orphans and other vulnerable children, home-based care, antiretroviral therapy, other treatment support, education for religious leaders on HIV and AIDS and stigma reduction, and prevention education for sexually transmitted HIV — focusing on promotion of abstinence and behavior change.

Stop AIDS: Make a Difference!

Take Action Now! Contact Congress now to support reauthorization of PEPFAR to include important provisions that will strengthen the program and save more lives.

Read a recent letter from CRS and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to the draft House bill to reauthorize PEPFAR.

Learn more about PEPFAR and how CRS has been able to save lives through this program.

Got more questions about PEPFAR? We've got answers in this brief overview of commonly asked questions related to PEPFAR.

Read a reflection from CRS President Ken Hackett about the lifesaving effect of PEPFAR-funded CRS programs.

Watch a video about the lifesaving PEPFAR-funded AIDSRelief program in Zambia. See the stories of the in-field volunteers who counsel others on taking their antiretroviral therapy.

Become a CRS Legislative Network member. Help make a difference. Urge Congress to improve PEPFAR during the reauthorization process. Join the CRS Legislative Network today. It's free and easy.

Read CRS President Ken Hackett's December 2007 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding PEPFAR reauthorization.

Share the stories and images of HIV. HIV in Africa: Responding with Hope offers photos exhibiting the Catholic Church's response to the HIV epidemic in Africa.

Donate to a CRS AIDS Program. Raise the quality of life for those living with HIV and AIDS, protect their rights, reduce risky behavior and educate vulnerable people about HIV and AIDS.

Host a prayer service. The Picture of Compassion: A CRS Prayer Service is a prayerful call for just and compassionate responses to the global HIV pandemic.

Visit the Children Left Behind Exhibit which features the creative work and stories of AIDS orphans from around the world.

Other Helpful Information

In 2004, Congress enacted groundbreaking legislation that established the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). CRS President Ken Hackett described this 5-year, $15 billion program as "one of the most outstanding programs our government has ever created" that has "shown the best possible face of the US government towards our world neighbors, and reflects the overwhelming compassion and generosity of the American people towards those affected by HIV and AIDS."

As a major implementer of PEPFAR programs, CRS has experienced firsthand how the legislation has benefited the men, women and children affected by HIV in some of the poorest countries in the world. Now that Congress is preparing to reauthorize PEPFAR, CRS is advocating for specific improvements in the bill. These include:

Reauthorize PEPFAR and Increase Funding

The size, spread and impact of the AIDS pandemic on the economic, social and political context make it a priority strategic issue for CRS. CRS works in many of the countries which have been devastated by AIDS: our programs and relationships with partners give us the opportunity to directly witness the impact of HIV and AIDS on individuals, projects, communities and societies as a whole.

Dedicate Funding for Promotion of Abstinence-Until-Marriage and Mutual Fidelity Programs as a Key HIV Prevention Strategy

There is widespread consensus among public health experts that abstinence and mutual fidelity are necessary components of any comprehensive approach to reduce the spread of HIV. Abstinence and mutual fidelity reinforce the precise values and norms necessary for mobilizing people to avoid risk, and for reversing the epidemic. Current PEPFAR legislation specifically allocates funds for abstinence and behavior change as part of a comprehensive approach. Without designated funding, proven programs that promote abstinence and mutual fidelity will be under-resourced and the high quality faith-based health structures and services in PEPFAR countries will be sidelined in the battle against HIV.

Reject Efforts to Mandate or Give Preferential Treatment in Awarding PEPFAR Funding to Groups that Perform Family Planning or Reproductive Health Services

CRS is very concerned about efforts to define "comprehensive services" for HIV positive women as necessarily including family planning and reproductive health services. Moral tenets of religious organizations like CRS prevent us from offering such services. Our experience is that high quality care, treatment and prevention can be provided without these additional services. If these services were mandated or given preferential treatment in awarding PEPFAR funds, then CRS and other religious implementers would be unable to participate in PEPFAR. Patients served through our networks, especially in the poorest, most remote areas of the globe, would face interrupted therapy or even cessation of life-saving therapy for lack of qualified providers.

Expand and Increase Funding for Nutrition Programs for People Receiving Antiretroviral Therapies

Lack of food — or the money to buy it — is the number one concern expressed by antiretroviral therapy patients, their households and orphans and vulnerable children. The poor nutrition of many antiretroviral therapy patients compromises the effectiveness of their medications. To fully benefit from antiretrovirals, many patients need therapeutic feeding for a limited period of time. Furthermore, lack of food often forces antiretroviral therapy patients to share their food with members of their households and compromises the nutrition of orphans and vulnerable children. While PEPFAR currently provides some funding for therapeutic feeding, it is not available to all who need it because of insufficient funding.

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