Holy See Delegation´s Address at U.N. on AIDS

Prevention and Cure «Required in the Face of This Evil Scourge»

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NEW YORK, JUNE 28, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of an address by Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers and head of the Holy See delegation to the Special Session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS. He gave the address Wednesday.

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Mr. President,

In recognition of the importance of this Special Session, His Holiness Pope John Paul II joins with world leaders in their efforts to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

In response to the request of the Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan, His Holiness has asked me to carry his personal message to the Secretary-General and this Assembly.

The text of that message is attached to the text of this intervention.

Faced with the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which presently affects 36.1 million people, the Holy See has at all times demonstrated its commitment to combating the disease. Since the first appearance of HIV/AIDS just twenty years ago, 21.8 million people throughout the world have died of the disease, 15 million of them in Africa alone. Thus far the epidemic has left 13.2 million children orphaned.

On various occasions, His Holiness Pope John Paul II has affirmed that those suffering from HIV/AIDS must be provided with full care and shown full respect, given every possible moral and spiritual assistance, and indeed treated in a way worthy of Christ himself. According to the Pope, the merciful love of God needs to be shown especially towards the orphaned children of parents who have died of AIDS. In response to the Pope´s appeal, 12% of those providing care to HIV/AIDS patients worldwide are agencies of the Catholic Church, and 13% are Catholic non-governmental organizations. The Catholic Church is thus carrying out 25% of the total care given to HIV/AIDS victims, which makes the Church the major supporter of States in the fight against this disease.

Two responses are required in the face of this evil scourge: prevention and cure. Both are of maximum importance, but it is better to prevent than to have to cure. Prevention of this disease calls for an honest assessment of its real nature, as a reality which affects the whole person. In many cases, HIV/AIDS implies problems also at the level of existential values; it is a true pathology of the spirit which harms not only the body but the whole person, interpersonal relationships and social life, and is often accompanied by a crisis of moral values.

Regarding the sexual transmission of the disease, the best and most effective prevention is training in the authentic values of life, love and sexuality. A proper appreciation of these values will inform today´s men and women about how to attain full personal fulfilment through affective maturity and the proper use of sexuality, whereby couples remain faithful to each other and behave in a way that keeps them from becoming infected by HIV/AIDS. No one can deny that sexual licence increases the danger of contracting the disease. It is in this context that the values of matrimonial fidelity and of chastity and abstinence can be better understood. Prevention, and the education which fosters it, are realized in respecting human dignity and the person´s transcendent destiny, and in excluding campaigns associated with models of behaviour which destroy life and promote the spread of the evil in question.

An important factor contributing to the rapid spread of AIDS is the situation of extreme poverty experienced by a great part of humanity. Certainly a decisive factor in combating the disease is the promotion of international social justice, in order to bring about a situation in which economic considerations would no longer serve as the sole criterion in an uncontrolled globalization. The Holy Father has urged Governments and the scientific community to continue HIV/AIDS research. Unfortunately, in many countries it is impossible to care for HIV/AIDS patients due to the high cost of patented medicines. The Pope reminds us that the Church has consistently taught that there is a ´social mortgage´ on all private property, and that this concept must also be applied to ´intellectual property´. The law of profit alone cannot be applied to essential elements in the fight against hunger, disease and poverty.

To secure greater effectiveness in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the Holy See supports plans for global coordination in combating the disease; encourages governments to make maximum use of the power and authority of the State in responding to the epidemic; urges the allocation of sufficient funding for combating HIV/AIDS; promotes increased scholastic and extracurricular education about the values of life, love and sexuality; insists on the equality of men and women, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against people suffering from HIV/AIDS; and encourages the provision of spiritual support for those living with the disease.

The Holy See further recommends the following: an increase in the number of treatment centers; better information and education about HIV/AIDS; fuller participation by civil society in the fight against HIV/AIDS; and greater involvement of people of good will in combating the disease. The Holy See also recommends: inviting the industrialized countries to assist needy countries in this campaign, while avoiding any semblance of colonialism; eliminating sexual exploitation, especially exploitation linked to tourism and migration; a maximum reduction in the price of antiretroviral medication for HIV/AIDS; an intensification of campaigns to prevent the transmission of the disease from mother to child; special attention in the treatment of those suffering from HIV/AIDS and the protection of AIDS orphans; and particular attention to the most vulnerable groups.

Thank you, Mr. President.

[text supplied by Holy See mission]

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