Multifaceted Response to AIDS Urged

Need to Change Behavior Is Stressed by Vatican

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BARCELONA, Spain, JULY 10, 2002 ( A Vatican aide told participants at a conference on AIDS that a “multidimensional” disease calls for a comparable response.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the United Nations in Geneva, made this observation after reading the document prepared for the conference here by UNAIDS, the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.

The document warns that the AIDS epidemic is still in an early phase. The spread of HIV in the hardest hit countries exceeds all expectations, and it continues to spread rapidly in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe.

“The UNAIDS report indicates that the response to the AIDS pandemic must be a multidimensional response, because the impact of the sickness is multidimensional,” the archbishop said. “This is particularly important in regard to prevention.”

He added: “The document indicates a whole series of aspects that must be examined, among which is the change in people’s behavior: for example, the promotion of abstinence, a delay in the age when sexual relations begin, and the promotion of marital fidelity.”

“In this connection, the report affirms that the decrease in the rate of infection in Uganda is due in large part to the increase in the average age when sexual relations first begin, from 15 to 17 years,” the archbishop continued.

“Therefore, in order to address this sickness, questions of responsible behavior must also be addressed, as well as all other aspects,” Archbishop Martin stressed.

“AIDS is a highly complex disease,” he said. “One reads in the report that the AIDS pandemic is made up of different pandemics that act together, and advances thanks, precisely, to the interaction of some problematic social phenomena of our time, among which poverty is also found.”

“Therefore, it is necessary to address the problem of poverty, it is necessary to improve the system of health care, to seek to offer existing medicines at accessible prices for the poorest and to continue research on a vaccine — a very important aspect — overcoming the economic problems connected with research,” Archbishop Martin said.

“Naturally, all this is necessary together with the need to change people’s behavior,” he concluded.

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