December 2, 2010 / 4:15 PM / 7 years ago

Wine for life: Italy group fights AIDS with wine

4 Min Read

ROME (Reuters Life!) - Italy's quality wine producers are selling their finest vintages to help fight AIDS in Africa, fermenting the Latin proverb "In Vino Veritas," (In wine there is truth), into "In Vino Caritas" (In wine there is charity).

"It's all about love, taking the love that we receive from nature, in the form of wine, and giving it back to the earth, in the form of helping our needy brothers and sisters in Africa," said Luca Sanjust, owner of the Petrolo winery in Tuscany.

Petrolo, a high-quality boutique winery that produces only about 70,000 bottles a year, is just one of the Italian producers sending a life line to Africa through their vines.

The project that links Tuscany's idyllic rolling hills with some of the world's most blighted areas was started seven years ago by Rome's Sant' Egidio Community, which has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

As part of the program, more than 120 of Italy's finest vineyards put a sticker on some of best bottles reading "Wine for Life - this bottle helps fight AIDS in Africa."

Some two million bottles have borne the stickers in the past eight years.

Fifty euro cents of the price goes to Sant' Egidio to finance their program called DREAM -- an acronym for Drug Resource Enhancement Against AIDS and Malnutrition -- to administer antiretroviral treatment.

DREAM centers have opened in Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroun.

"This is about life, it is not about business," said Sanjust, 51, whose wines for the project include his Galatrona and Torrione labels, contributing tens of thousands of euros to the program each year.

"Wine to us is sacred. Life is sacred. I think the people who are doing this work in Africa are living saints," Sanjust said at a recent benefit and wine auction for the program.

Peace Movement

Founded by students in Rome in 1968, Sant' Egidio has a long history of work in Africa. In 1992 it negotiated an end to the civil war in Mozambique after other diplomatic attempts failed.

The DREAM project gets about 250,000 euros ($329,700) a year from its Wine for Life initiative. The rest comes from charities, institutions, private donations and corporations.

Their clinics currently treat some 98,000 AIDS patients, including 59,000 for HIV and AIDS. Nearly 12,000 children been born healthy from HIV positive mothers thanks to the program of antiretroviral drugs.

Sant' Egidio runs 31 centers with 18 laboratories in Africa and has helped with the professional formation of some 3,600 local doctors and clinical workers.

Some 500 professionals from the developed world, many of them doctors, go to Africa on their own time and money to help, a practice that helps keep costs under control.

Another well known Italian winery that takes part in the dream program is Zenato, which produces, among other delights, Amarone Valpolicella DOC, which this year was rated 36 in the Top 100 list in the U.S. wine magazine Wine Spectator.

"Land is a gift of God and the earth. Our ties to the earth and our vines can make us great and bring a smile to children," said Nadia Zenato, vice president of the family-own winery based in the hills west of Verona near Lake Garda.

"We want to do good for the those who are less fortunate than us. That's our family philosophy," said Zenato, 38, who runs the company with her mother and brother.

"It's in our blood. It's in our vines," she said.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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