Chicago Tribune Examines Catholic Church’s Attitude Toward, Role in HIV/AIDS Pandemic
The Chicago Tribune on Wednesday examined the evolution of the Catholic Church's role over the last 25 years in addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic. According to the Tribune, the Catholic Church has evolved from approaching the disease with an "initial nervousness to actively providing pastoral care and medical treatment." The Vatican estimates that nearly 27% of HIV/AIDS services globally are provided by the church or Catholic-based organizations. Clergy and health professionals -- who are convening this week at Loyola University Chicago for the National Catholic AIDS Network's 19th annual National Catholic HIV/AIDS Ministry Conference -- say discrimination against HIV-positive people is one of the main obstacles the church faces in fighting the epidemic. Catholic HIV/AIDS advocates on Wednesday said that stigma attached to the disease in the U.S. has lessened in urban areas but remains prevalent in rural areas of the Midwest and the South. They also said priests remain reluctant to discuss HIV/AIDS openly with members of the church. The Rev. Robert Vitillo, special adviser on HIV/AIDS for the Geneva-based Catholic group Caritas Internationalis, said the topic of this year's conference, "Are We One Body?" specifically addresses stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS. "We are all parts of the body of Christ, and we need all those different parts," Vitillo said, adding, "People with AIDS are essential parts of the church. Their illness makes them all the more important because they are suffering and need our help." The clergy and congregation have differing views on Catholic teachings on prevention issues, such as condoms and needle exchange, the Tribune reports. Several members of the clergy and Catholic health professionals have endorsed condom use as a method of HIV prevention despite the Vatican's objections. The Rev. Jon Fuller, a Jesuit priest and HIV/AIDS physician at Boston Medical Center, said a change in the Roman Catholic Church's views on contraception could significantly impact the spread of HIV. "The intention, in this case, is not contraception, but decreased risk of transmission of a fatal virus," Fuller said. (Ramirez, Chicago Tribune, 7/13).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.