VATICAN CITY –– In a special appeal against HIV and AIDS, Pope Benedict XVI called for special attention to those unable to afford life-saving drugs, especially aidsChildren receive inhalotherapy in the San Jose Hospice in Sacatepequez, Guatemala, Nov. 30. About 68 HIV-infected children receive free medical care at the hospice, many of them were found abandoned in markets, churches, fire stations. World AIDS Day, on Dec. 1, is commemorated across the world to raise awareness of the pandemic. (CNS photo/Jorge Dan Lopez, Reuters)pregnant and nursing women affected by the disease.

The pope, speaking before World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, said his thoughts and prayers were with “the great number of children who contract the virus every year from their own mothers, despite the fact there are therapies for preventing it.”

AIDS has caused “millions of deaths and tragic human suffering, most markedly in poorer regions of the world, which have great difficulty in getting access to effective drugs,” he said Nov. 28.

The pope encouraged the many initiatives the church supports aimed at “eradicating this scourge.”

The Vatican has estimated Catholic agencies provide about 25 percent of all HIV treatment and care throughout the world. The World Health Organization has estimated that perhaps as much as 70 percent of all health care in Africa is provided by faith-based organizations.