MANILA, August 30, 2012— As science takes steps forward to stop “needless deaths” from HIV/AIDS, Msgr. Robert Vitillo urged governments to take measures that would prevent “needless infections”.
As the special adviser HIV and AIDS for Caritas Internationalis, he said that a cure on AIDS would be a “good news” but one must not forget about the ideal solution to prevent the spread of the disease.
“There are reports that we almost have the cure for HIV… I think those were positive signals but we also have to recognize that there are many challenges before we see the end of AIDS,” Vitillo said.
He maintains that behavioral change is vital in not only preventing HIV, but also ensuring that people remain tied into things that can save their lives and move the world closer to eliminating the epidemic.
“We always look for easy solution to problems. I think that we have to learn from experience that behavior change is really the way to put forward HIV prevention programs,” he said.
Vitillo has been in the country since August 22 conducting workshops on the disease in different archdioceses.
According to him, in the 1980s when HIV was discovered as the agent that caused AIDS and that that major way of spreading it was through sexual contact, experts were looking for “technical solution.”
“And when they found out that the condom could at least reduce the risk of spreading HIV, they decided that the way to solve this problem very quickly was simply to distribute many condoms as many as they could in the world,” Vitillo said.
Some government programs, he lamented, still focus mainly on condom promotion as the perfect way to solve the problem.
“But the fact is that within 39 years, we have not really stop the HIV infections through those means,” he stressed.
Vitillo said there had been other programs that focused on a “more comprehensive and self-centered approach” than the technical means. “And they have been more successful in bringing down the rate of infections,” he said.
He cited that in Kenya and Uganda, for example, the governments there actively engaged in other strategies on HIV prevention, not just the promotion of condoms.
Uganda had “Zero Grazing” campaign from 1987 until 1992. It meant stay faithful to your partner. In its wake, the country’s HIV infection rate fell steeply throughout the country from 15 percent to 6 percent.
“Studies also showed that this was not due to condom use, because people reduced the number of sexual partners and the young people waited longer to start their sexual activity in life,” Vitillo said.
“These are really behavior programs that were evidently effective. And we’ve seen this happened in many parts of the world as well. Behavioral and cultural change is the key,” he said. [RL/CBCPNews]