Vatican announces study meeting on HIV/AIDS

VATICAN CITY — At the end of the month, the Vatican will host a study meeting on caring for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Lighting candles for AIDS awareness. (CNS/Reuters)

Originally announced as a one-day gathering, the encounter now is scheduled for May 27-28. Technically it is being sponsored by the Good Samaritan Foundation, a small initiative that helps pay for antiretroviral drugs and others services for people with HIV/AIDS. The foundation operates under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.

Msgr. Jean-Marie Mpendawatu, undersecretary of the council, said in February that the study meeting would take a comprehensive approach to AIDS prevention and treatment and that it would precede the publication of pastoral guidelines for Catholic health care workers in the field.

A press release from the council dated Saturday said the meeting would look at current medical and scientific information, education programs and treatment options, but with a special emphasis on “aspects of humanization and fairness and the magisterial and pastoral orientations that should guide caring for sick people.”

It pointed out that the study meeting would include “non-Catholics and people with beliefs that are not always totally in harmony with the church.” Their presence, the press release said, does not signal an attitude of questioning church teaching, but rather is an opportunity to explain how programs that follow church teaching are focused on fully respecting the patient as a person and promoting his or her dignity.

Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV-AIDS — known as UNAIDS — is expected to attend.