(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed to all persons to act in a responsible manner to prevent the spread of HIV-Aids.

Speaking during the weekly general audience in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope recalled that on Thursday, 1st December, we mark World Aids Day which is promoted by the United Nations.

“Millions of people live with this illness and only half of them have access to life-saving therapies” he said.

The Pope invited all to pray for them and for their families and promote solidarity so that “also the poor can benefit from adequate diagnosis and treatment.

“I appeal to all to act in a responsible way in order to prevent the further spread of this disease” he said.

HIV continues to be a major global public health issue. Recent statistics show that globally an estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV (including 1.8 million children).

The vast majority of this number live in low- and middle- income countries

Since the start of the epidemic, an estimated 78 million people have become infected with HIV and 35 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses.

An estimated 25.5 million people living with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa The vast majority of them (an estimated 19 million) live in east and southern Africa which saw 46% of new HIV infections globally in 2015. Around 40% of all people living with HIV do not know that they have the virus.