The majority of the 35.3 million people living with HIV and AIDS live in developing countries. Lack of education and the financial burden of HIV and AIDS continue to drive millions more into poverty.

African school children

    HIV and AIDS preconference

    In July 2014, an international group gathered in Melbourne to discuss the Catholic response to HIV and AIDS.

    More information

The facts

Globally, an estimated 35.3 million people were living with HIV in 2012. This is an increase from previous years as more people are now receiving the life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) and are thus living longer with the infection. Although people are living longer with the virus, this does not mean efforts to stop transmissions have failed.  There were 2.5 million new HIV infections globally in 2012, showing a 33 percent decline in the number of new yearly infections from 3.4 million in 2001.[1]

At the same time the number of AIDS related deaths is also declining with 1.6 million AIDS related deaths in 2012, down from 2.3 million in 2005.

Over the past ten years there has been considerable progress in prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS, but some countries have not experienced the same level of success as others. Sub-Sahara Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV, whereas the Caribbean has the highest rates of infection in the world at 4.5 percent.

Two phenomena

  • HIV = Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • AIDS = Acquired Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome

It is important to understand the HIV and AIDS as two separate phenomena and thus Caritas Australia will refer to it as HIV and AIDS. Where treatment, good nutrition and high level health services are available, HIV infection need not lead to AIDS, which is a terminal disease. There are now many thousands of individuals who have been able to maintain good levels of health, and productive lives, while remaining HIV positive.

Our Caritas approach

The Catholic Church and its agencies are one of the largest providers of HIV and AIDS treatment in the world.

One in four people with HIV and AIDS in the developing world is supported by the Catholic Church, and Caritas Australia alone has over 20 years' experience in responding to the crisis.

As a Catholic agency, Caritas Australia places its responses to HIV and AIDS within a theological and developmental context which encourages individuals and communities to take responsibility for their own, and their dependents’ lives. As an international aid agency, Caritas Australia adopts an integral human development approach which empowers individuals and communities to mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS and ultimately stop the spread of the HIV virus.

Caritas Internationalis estimates that its member organisations are offering financial support or technical assistance to Church-inspired HIV and AIDS programs in 116 countries.  

Caritas Australia’s response

Caritas Australia works with local agencies in over 15 countries to design and implement long-term development programs that directly encompass our comprehensive approach to HIV and AIDS. In addition, in line with Caritas Australia’s mandate to reach the poorest and most marginalised, people living with HIV and AIDS are prioritised and included across our full range of community development programs, such as those promoting sustainable agriculture, livelihoods, water and hygiene programs.

  • Caritas Australia's El Salvador partner CONTRASIDA is working to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS and advocating on behalf of those who are living with HIV and AIDS. The ongoing partnership between CONTRASIDA and Rosales Hospital in attending to HIV positive pregnant women has resulted in no transmission of the virus to newborn infants in the last three years.
  • In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) Centres were established; these allow people to be aware of their HIV status. HIV and AIDS support groups for people living with HIV and AIDS, orphans and vulnerable children also commenced.
  • In Zimbabwe, over 200 people were trained in home based care; they visit people living with HIV and AIDS and other chronic illnesses. Our partners have networked with local clinics to increase access to ART; there are mobile clinics in operation, as well as increased nutritional support, including five feeding centres for over 2,000 children.
  • In Indonesia, 483 community volunteers across 16 villages of Merauke district were trained in HIV and AIDS prevention. Our partner in Merauke also raised awareness by distributing 400 hats, cloth bags and t-shirts with HIV and AIDS messages printed on them.
  • Maryknoll, our local partner in Cambodia, continues to have great success with 100 percent of non-infection for newborn babies.
  • VCT is internationally recognised as an important prevention strategy. In 2011, Catholic-run services accounted for a third of all testing and treatment in Papua New Guinea and in the first four months of 2012, 18,948 people were tested at 77 sites.
  • In Burma/Myanmar, well-established HIV and AIDS awareness raising teams are in place and over the past year, 24,412 people were provided with information and education on HIV and AIDS issues.

HIV and AIDS preconference

On 18 to 20 July 2014, Caritas Australia welcomed to Melbourne an international group of experts to discuss the Catholic response to HIV and AIDS. With Catholic agencies providing as much as 25 per cent of the care worldwide for people living with HIV and AIDS, this was a chance for key agencies to share ideas. Read more below.

HIV and AIDS preconference
The ‘more’ that is needed – the way forward in tackling HIV and AIDS
“It is about being with the people [living with HIV and AIDS], listening to them and learning from them.” Sister Ivy Khoury

This blog post explores some of the themes and issues discussed at the pre-conference

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Sr Ivy Khoury at the Catholic HIV AIDS conference 
Sowing seeds of hope in Cambodia
"Helping people who live with HIV and AIDS…means focusing on their psychological health as much as their physical health."

Sister Len Montiel from our partner Seedling of Hope, spoke of her work in Cambodia, which has one of the highest rates of HIV in Asia.
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Sister Len Montiel
More about the preconference


[1] All figures on HIV and AIDS that do not relate to our work come from UNAIDS. In particular: