In a message for World AIDS Day, Javier Cardinal Lozano Barrag·n, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care has called for a reduction of the price of anti-viral drugs and medicines that are needed to treat HIV/AIDS patients.
Saying that AIDS is one of the "greatest health care challenges at a planetary level" he also urged the "banishing" of the "stigma that so often makes society harsh in relation to the AIDS victim".
The organisation of the United Nations for the AIDS programme (UNAIDS) has dedicated this year to women, to girls and HIV/AIDS, because of their greater vulnerability, compared to men, to contracting the HIV/AIDS virus.
One study demonstrated that they are infected 2.5 more often than men.
"I share the concern of the international community about the dramatic picture of the consequences of this epidemic for the health, the living conditions, the prospects, the status and the dignity of women and girls in many regions of the world." Barragan said.
"Indeed, the impact of HIV/AIDS on women aggravates inequality and hinders progress towards the universality of rights. In addition, the more this infection advances amongst women, who are the columns of families and communities, the more the danger of social breakdown increases."
"The Church has always defended women and their very great dignity with especial vigour and is struggling to fight those examples of discrimination which still today in a great deal of our society require greater efforts to secure the elimination of disparities in relation to women in such sectors as education, the defence of health, and work."
"HIV/AIDS is one of the most devastating epidemics of our times; it is a human drama which, because of its gravity and enormity, is one of the greatest health care challenges at a planetary level that now exists."
The cardinal also focused on the impact of AIDS on children.
According to the data contained in the 2004 report by UNICEF, UNAIDS and USAID, "Children on the Brink," between 2001 and 2003 the overall number of children who have been made orphans by AIDS grew from 11.5 million to 15 million, in large part in Africa.
It is estimated that by 2010 there will be in Sub-Saharan Africa 18.4 million children made orphans by HIV/AIDS.
Their plight is made worse by the fact that their increasing number is changing traditional systems welcoming orphans into families because those, which are already poor, find it difficult to take responsibility for such children.
A recent survey of US Evangelicals however, suggested that less than one in five would be prepared to give financially to help AIDS orphans.
"We must banish the stigma that so often makes society harsh in relation to the AIDS victim. In order to dissipate the prejudices of those who fear the proximity of AIDS victims because they want to avoid contagion, we should remember that AIDS is only transmitted through the three routes of blood, the link between a mother and her unborn child, and sexual contact." the cardinal said.
"All these routes of transmission must be combated effectively and thereby eliminated. As regards sexual contact, we should remember that contagion must be eliminated through responsible behaviour and observance of the virtue of chastity. In addition, the Pope, when referring to the Synod for Africa of 1994, repeats a recommendation formulated by the Bishops who took part in that Synod: "the affection, the joy, the happiness and the peace procured through Christian marriage and faithfulness, like the safety conferred by chastity, must be continually presented to the faithful, and especially to the young."
The Cardinal went on to propose several policies for action including support for overall global plans to combat HIV/AIDS,
the elimination of all forms of discrimination in relation to HIV/AIDS victims and a reduction "to the utmost" of the price of the anti-viral drugs and medicines that are needed to treat HIV/AIDS patients.
Worlds AIDS day takes place on 1 December 2004.