Poor AIDS Patients Have Right to Treatment, Pope Says

Urges Support for U.N. Fund

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NEW YORK, JUNE 26, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, appealing for respect for the right to health of AIDS patients in developing countries who cannot afford treatments.

On the eve of the U.N. General Assembly´s special session on the AIDS problem, and before leaving for Ukraine, the Holy Father wrote a letter to communicate to the assembly´s participants his two main concerns about the present situation of 36 million AIDS sufferers.

The text of the papal letter was published Monday by the Vatican Press Office.

The Pope´s first concern is the «transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child,» an «extremely painful question.»

«While in developed countries,» he explains, «it is possible to markedly reduce the number of children born with the virus, thanks to adapted therapies, in developing countries, and Africa in particular, those who come into the world with the infection are very numerous, which results in acute suffering for the families and the community.»

The tears of AIDS orphans should move the conscience of the international community, the Pope states.

John Paul II´s second concern is «the access of AIDS patients to medical treatments and, to the degree possible, to anti-retroviral therapies.»

The «cost of these medicines is excessive, at times exorbitant, for the means of citizens of the poorest countries,» the Pope notes.

The Holy Father acknowledges that the above is a complicated question, because it «entails different economic and juridical aspects, among which are certain interpretations of the right to intellectual property.»

However, quoting the social doctrine of the Church, the Pontiff defends every person´s right to health, based on the principle of the universal allocation of the earth´s goods.

The Holy Father writes: «I ask the rich countries to respond to the needs of AIDS patients in poor countries with all available means, so that these men and women, tried in body and soul, may have access to the medicines they need to be cured.»

The Bishop of Rome strongly supports the objectives of the U.N. meeting, which seeks to elaborate an international program geared to prevention and the treatment of the disease.

Likewise, the Pope applauds Kofi Annan´s initiative to create an «AIDS and Health» World Fund, to collect between $7 billion and $10 billion to prevent the disease and care for AIDS victims in poor countries, and he appeals for the objective to be reached as soon as possible. To date, $528 million has been pledged.

Lastly, the Holy Father says that AIDS is not only a health but also a moral challenge. In the struggle against the epidemic, he states, the international community «must be inspired in a constructive vision of the dignity of man and invest in youth, to help them grow in mature and responsible affectivity.»

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