Bishop John Ricard Says AIDS Legislation Will Help Fight Scourge of Disease

Chairman of the Committee on International Policy of USCCB Spoke on Monday

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WASHINGTON, MAY 20, 2003 ( Congressional approval of the AIDS legislation will help fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in developing nations, says Bishop John Ricard, chairman of the committee on International Policy, USCCB.

«Authorization of the $15 billion called for in President Bush’s global health initiative is a major step toward substantially increasing our national commitment to confronting this pandemic, thus offering new hope to millions of people around the world,» said Bishop John H. Ricard, in a statement published by the LA conference of Catholic bishops.

Bishop Ricard particularly applauded several specific provisions which, he said, will strengthen the U.S. response. He cited an amendment that urges the United States to work with other creditors to provide increased debt relief to poor countries, especially those suffering the most from HIV/AIDS.

In the amendment is a conscience clause that will ensure that Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and other religious organizations — principal providers of care for those affected by HIV/AIDS — will not be discriminated against on the basis of their religious or moral convictions; and a recognition that abstinence and fidelity must be a principal component of preventative education in order to help curb the spread of HIV.

«The Catholic community, with many others, has long worked for this new commitment on global health and debt relief,» Bishop Ricard stated. «I hope that Congress will now appropriate the money needed to make this legislation a reality, and that the U.S. government will press for strengthening the debt relief program along the lines proposed by this legislation.»

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