ITALY - ARCHE’: for association in Italy to care for HIV+ children. Summer holidays 2003 for HIV+ children and mothers living in poor social or health conditions with particular attention for rehabilitation of HIV/AIDS children and adolescents

Saturday, 3 April 2004

Rome (Fides Service) - It was the first association in Italy to address the problem of HIV/AIDS and children in need of assistance and to guarantee them a life as normal as possible like other children of their age. Born in 1989 in Milan, thanks to Father Giuseppe Bettoni it provides home care and hospital treatment for children with AIDS and their families. During the 1990s other centres were opened in Rome (1993) and in Florence (1995).
Archè collaborates with major paediatric centres and hospitals in Milan, Rome and Florence: these structures and local social assistants report cases of children and families suffering social problems because of AIDS.
Archè projects include Home and Hospital assistance; amusement in hospitals: entrustment, Summer Rainbow Weeks; Expressive workshops; self-help family groups: prevention programmes in schools; Home; support for communication of diagnosis; international projects.

2003 Summer holidays organised by the Rome centre
“The holidays were held in a large country house in Viterbo with the presence and the collaboration of educators members of CEMEA Lazio association”, Paola Liuni directress of Archè Rome Centre told Fides.
Formation but also the realisation that the holiday was the founding principle for education based on doing that personal experience is the main road for interiorising an event, an idea, and a competence.
Activities - manual, expressive, play, non verbal - considered an important means to build relations with other were the basis for the organisation of daily programmes with activities in groups formed according to the children’s personal needs and abilities. Our helpers aim to connect processes of knowledge and situations and to face without discrimination theoretical and practical, verbal and non-verbal aspects and act and reflect, on educational activity. Reflect and act means helping each child to mature motivation to learn and act.
Education becomes an opportunity for all to make an effort in the pleasure of doing, promote non superficial commitment towards activity done for personal interest but also for the interest of being together with others sharing discoveries, enthusiasm, defeats, the will to start again and continue to search.

Children aged 3 to 15 took part in the holiday organised in age groups for specific activities during the day.
Small groups of 5 or 6 children are a guarantee that each child will receive special care. The potential of the group as a protected place in which to experiment with communication, as place of privileged relationships in which to develop one’s abilities to grow experiencing oneself in the encounter with others, is amplified in moments of activity in extended groups. We start from a situation of co-existence to identify ourselves with that of a community where a network of communications emerges in a space for expression, which promotes opportunities to actualise creative abilities, which lead to new solutions. Every child and adult becomes for the other a possibility, which opens the path to creativity and choice. For every child there is a story of suffering and pain and for the workers and volunteers there is the will to risk one’s own story in an encounter with others.

Holidays for mothers and children new-born to 4 years
The holiday takes place in large houses, one near Rome for children on holiday and the other in Tuscany for children and mothers. The house is arranged like a home to foster dialogue among children and adults of reference. The holiday is a time of communication in a space for expression promoting opportunities for creativity leading to new solutions. Each becomes for the other, another possibility opening the path for creativity and choice. For each child and for each mother there is a story of suffering and pain, for the workers and volunteers there is the will to risk one’s own story in an encounter with others.

Rehabilitation of HIV+ children
Despite law (L.135/90) and generous commitment by Archè which aims to promote all rights and improve the life quality of HIV+ children accompanying them in a process of self help and empowerment, not many of them take part in residential holidays with their peers.

Principle obstacle is taking the therapy.
For children taking therapy is difficult and they have to be helped by an adult of reference able to interpret the fatigue and also the worry, which emerge at the moment of therapy. Anxiety and the difficulty of the time of medicine taking expresses the lack of understanding and that impossibility of these children to be in contact with an illness of which they know not even the name. In HIV+ families there is an air of secrecy and it is difficult to speak openly about the illness. It is very difficult for the mothers to be in contact with an illness, which they have transmitted. Trying to play down the situation they often build a relationship with the child based on caring for the body, therapy, medical checks, but they cannot help the child come into contact with emotional pain related with the illness nor can they meet his needs and difficulties or give meaning to life.
For the older children the acceptance of therapy goes hand in hand with the acceptance of the illness. Besides trying to take pills without being seen by their friends, rejection of the therapy often becomes a means of getting more attention from the adults and help in the process of awareness of the illness. For these children who grow up with sickness and death and are never projected towards a possible future from the adults of reference a relationship of trust with the helper who knows about HIV is a significant and necessary experience for a new possibility of awareness of his or her illness, for a global shouldering of responsibility for self and others and above all for a possible project with regard life expectations.
“Every year during the holidays, says Paola Liuni, we realise the many problems of a therapy which is so affected by the personal psychological aspects of each child and also the precise hour and manner of giving the therapy and how it can affect group activity and the serenity of the community. The work of the helpers is most important and at times determinant. With the help of an adult the holiday can be a first step towards awareness of a difficulty and opening of dialogue which can facilitate the integration of the therapy in the routine of daily life.
Some children can suspend therapy for a brief period for a time of vacation. Archè will continue to work for the rehabilitation and social integration of HIV+ children by promoting insertion in various contexts of holidays for children in a condition to suspend treatment and continuing to pay special attention to those who still do not have this possibility.» (AP/PL) (3/4/2004 Agenzia Fides)


Arche Holidays: a competent community. “Coming back to Mottola with a bag full of…” children who took part in the 2003 holiday tell their story

Rome (Fides Service) - “On Arche holidays children and grown ups get up to all sorts of things. My name is Vincenzo and I like to get up early. I would wake up early and dress quietly so as not to wake others who wanted to sleep on. I go downstairs to have breakfast with the volunteers and other children. All of us, children and volunteers, were put in groups: this year we had the explorers, the pirates and the mermaids. The volunteers made a brightly coloured poster with the names and the groups with the sea, ships and islands. I was in the explorers group. There were 8 of us six children and two volunteers. We were together all the time: to go to the beach, or on a boat trip, or to visit the Trulli or the caves and we sat together at table. This made it easy to get to know each other and I never felt lonely. We played games, we swam in the pool and played in the woods, we danced with the pirates and the mermaids and we had a lot of fun. In the afternoon there were workshops led by volunteers, painting, clay modelling kite making and lots of other things to choose from. After the workshop there was an exhibition of what had been produced and we asked questions and told others how we made our things. This year I did a painted decoration no a T-shirt. After supper there was usually another game or dancing. We went to bed much earlier than at home but we talked a lot in bed and the volunteers told us stories. I always tried to listen to the end but I nearly always fell asleep before the end of the story ”.
The type of holiday lived by Vincenzo focuses on the group as a protected space in which to experience communication and to develop abilities of growth in meeting.

“The thing I liked best at the Mottola holiday -Marzia told us - was seeing old friends and making new ones. I was sorry that when we went on a boat trip we were not allowed to swim and I like swimming, especially in deep water. I liked the days when we used the pool and my best friend was Manuel because he didn’t hurt me and he played with me. The holiday at Mottola was the best because we had a lot of fun.”

“Dear Arche, I want to tell you that the holiday this year was very nice. I saw new things and had fun with the others. It was nice to be all together and to have fun but it was also nice to visit new place see new things. Ciao, ciao.” Martina

Andrea one of the Arche volunteers tells his story: “I like the workshops particularly because the children choose what they want to do and they can change and do something else the next day. But sometimes I wished I had more experience and competence. Therapy is boring but it has to be done I would tell the children simply avoiding stories and untruths which I heard from the children. It was difficult to part from the children after 15 days and at that sad moment I realised I had grown up and that I was part of a group of operators who worked to make the children happy so that, like me, they would start counting the days to the next holiday ”.
(AP/PL) (3/4/2004 Agenzia Fides)


All over the world people work to fight and prevent AIDS but correct information is essential for any successful intervention
Politrasfusi Association

Rome (Fides Service) - Usually people in cities and tourist areas are more affected by HIV/AIDS than people in rural areas. Movement of people, closeness to paths of communications spreads HIV/AIDS. Infection among sex workers is 80% in Nairobi, 55% in Cuba and 33% in Europe.
Northern European countries are more open than Italy but from Australia to Scotland from Portugal to Estonia and overseas the common objective is to unite efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.
The situation of HIV/AIDS is changing thanks to therapy available and progress in research.
The production of new antiretroviral drugs and virus-resistant drugs gives new hope in the battle against AIDS and have led to decrease in the evolution of AIDS in patients who have been given therapy; decrease in the morality rate (about 30% less); testing with new drugs has improved the overall health conditions of patients. Of course these results may not be lasting but it is also true that research is producing more drugs which can be used as a substitute to stop the lethal effect of the virus.
In Italy since 1982, when the first case of AIDS was reported, to 30 giugno 2003, there have been about 51,968 registered cases. Of these 40,411 (77,8%) were men 725 (1.4%) were children under 13 anni, and 3,056 (5.9%) were non-Italians. The average age of people infected is 34 for men 32 for women. The number of people killed by AIDS up to 2003 was 33,564 that is 64.6% of the registered cases. However since it is not compulsory to report deaths for AIDS the number is probably higher. In the first six months of 2003 the number of new cases of AIDS reported was 848. (AP/AM) (3/4/2004 Agenzia Fides)