By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Wednesday called for a renewed solidarity with those suffering from the HIV virus to guarantee care for those in the world's poorest places.
Speaking at his general audience, Francis said World AIDS Day was an important occasion to remember people affected by the virus. In some areas of the world there is no access to essential care, he said.
UNAIDS, the Geneva-based United Nations programme on HIV and AIDS, said on Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic was undercutting the AIDS response in many places and services for people who use drugs for HIV were disrupted in 65%of 130 countries surveyed.
"I hope there can be a renewed commitment of solidarity to guarantee efficient and equitable health care, (for those with HIV-AIDS)," the pope said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says about 37.7 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2020, more than two thirds of them in Africa.
Last month Francis wrote a letter to Michael O’Loughlin, an American journalist who wrote a book about the work of Catholics who helped AIDS victims at the start of the crisis in the early 1980s.
"Thank you for illuminating the lives and witnessing of the many priests, women religious and lay people who have chosen to accompany, support and help their brothers and sisters suffering from HIV and AIDS at great risk to their profession and reputation," Francis wrote in the letter.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Angus MacSwan)