I visit the Sant’ Egidio Community, situated in a beautiful old monastery in the heart of Rome. A poignant moment on arrival to see a tiny little iron turnstile in the wall, where poor and desperate unmarried women in years long past had to tragically abandon babies without disclosing their own identity.
Today the 120,000 strong Sant’ Egidio community across the world address new crises. With their hugely dedicated staff we talked about the work they are doing to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa aiming to offer a treatment in Mozambique and Malawi that matches the treatment you can find in Italy or the UK. In many of the poor countries I’ve visited, AIDS often has a female face. Pacem from Malawi has come to share with us her journey from her own HIV positive diagnosis to treatment and life now as an activist for Sant’Egidio, sharing the message of life after testing.
HIV is spreading fastest amongst women and young girls, and elderly women are often the ones left holding families and communities together in the epidemics wake. I am concerned that HIV-positive women are often denied health care, information and services. This can mean they pass the infection onto their baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding even though there are effective ways of preventing mother to child transmission. The DREAM programme created by Sant’Egidio works in partnership with communities to overcome these barriers to treatment and care and offers hope and dignity to thousands of vulnerable people across Africa.
I am with Margarita Zavala from Mexico and Margarida Barroso whose husband is the Presidient of the EU and has herself just returned from a visit to Mozambique. We all know that we will follow up on today’s meeting to learn more, and I hope to engage them in the maternal mortality campaign I support.
After the visit, I returned to the British Embassy for a short break and then back out to the final visit of the day with the spouse group. We are hosted by the Italian President’s wife at the Quirinale Palace with a fascinating tour and a drink at the end. We all left ready to meet in L’Aquila in the morning to visit the town and witness the effects of the terrible earthquake here. I have made my way to L’Aquila tonight to find Gordon after his meetings and hear how his day has gone.
More from me tomorrow.