Monday, February 17, 2014

Archbishop announces effort to help Tanzania AIDS victims

AIDS orphans Dominic, 7, and her sister Reticia, 10, standing between parents' graves in this December 2000 file photo. Credit: UN Photo/Louise Gubb.A new partnership between the Good Samaritan Foundation and Gilead Sciences will provide free HIV and AIDS testing in the diocese of Shinyanga, Tanzania as well as those who test positive.

“'The Test and Treat Project' is indeed an important result of the work engaged in by the Good Samaritan Foundation and by our Pontifical Council,” Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski said in a Feb. 11 press release announcing the initiative.

It fulfills “the mission of the Church…which Jesus himself gave as a mandate: Euntes docete et curate infirmos,” or “'go, teach and heal the sick,'” he said, quoting the Gospel of Matthew.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski is the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, which oversees the Samaritan Foundation, an organization dedicated to training nurses on proper healthcare.

With their agreement with Gilead Sciences – a California research-based biopharmaceutical company seeking to discover, develop and commercialize innovative medicines in areas of unmet medical need – access to free testing for HIV, and if necessary to antiretroviral therapies for about 120,000 residents of the District of Shinyanga (Mwanza, Tanzania), will now be available.

Called “Test & Treat,” the five-year project was presented yesterday to coincide with the 22nd World Day of the Sick, and in addition to the medical aspects, both the moral and hygienic training of the people will be included, as well as support for the “weakest,” beginning with orphans.

Following a specific plan of action, the project includes four specific steps, the first being to offer support to those who are already working to treat the HIV virus in Shinyanga.

After this support is given, they plan to develop specialist training programs for the social and health-care personnel involved, organize educational programs the communities for the district, and strengthen initiatives that involve help “at the level of alimentation for HIV-positive children.”

“On the basis of the statistics relating to the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the north of Tanzania, it is estimated that about 20,000 people of those who will have free clinical analyses…will, unfortunately, be HIV-positive,” Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski explained.

“However, they will immediately be able to have access, again without any charge, to the antiretroviral drugs that they need.”

Explaining the process of treatment for those who test positive for the virus, Archbishop Zimowski noted that first they will be made “aware of their condition,” and assured of “a life expectancy of another thirty years or more.”

It will also “enable expectant women to avoid the transmission of the virus to their unborn children,” he noted.

Gregg Alton, Gilead’s executive vice president of Corporate and Medical Affairs, observed in the press release that in the future, this initiative could become “a point of reference for all future programs for the diagnosis and treatment of the virus and its correlated illnesses in economically disadvantaged countries.”

“We are very happy to be able to work with the Good Samaritan Foundation,” Alton expressed, “because we know about its pioneering courage in providing care and treatment to the victims of HIV/AIDS.”