Vatican Pushing for Low-Cost AIDS Medication

Archbishop Cordes Says Children Could Be Saved

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 29, 2004 ( The Holy See is urging the pharmaceutical industry to make low-cost AIDS medication available to avoid deaths in Africa from the dreaded disease.

“The Holy See has undertaken initiatives to exert pressure on large pharmaceutical industries in order to lower prices,” confirmed Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” at a press conference where he presented John Paul II’s message for Lent.

In his Lenten text, the Pope stresses that “humanity cannot close its eyes in the face of so appalling a tragedy,” in reference to the AIDS epidemic, especially among children.

“The suffering of children who are dying because they have no medicines could be avoided,” said Archbishop Cordes, whose council coordinates the charitable activities of Catholic institutions worldwide.

Father Angelo d’Agostino, a medical director of Nyumbani, the Children of God Relief Institute, of Nairobi, also spoke at the press conference, echoing the appeal made on several occasions by the Pope and other Holy See officials.

Father d’Agostino’s project will receive aid this year from “Cor Unum,” in response to the Holy Father’s request in the 2004 Lenten message to reinforce commitment to needy children.

Every day, “400 people die in Kenya from AIDS,” the priest said. “It is an act of genocide of the pharmaceutical cartels which refuse to offer reasonable medications in Africa.”

For Father d’Agostino, who for 30 years was a professor at Georgetown University, and for the past two decades has been a doctor in Kenya, “the lack of social conscience of these capitalist enterprises” is “a moral problem” as they could “save the lives of 25 million Africans infected with the HIV virus in sub-Saharan Africa.”

“According to data of the World Health Organization, there are 11 million orphan children in Africa as a consequence of AIDS,” Archbishop Cordes added.

Father d’Agostino, who is founding Nyumbani Village to house some 1,000 people, the majority children with AIDS and elderly persons, is being supported by American philanthropist John Noel.

The priest came to Rome to participate in the presentation of the papal Lenten message. He appealed to the media to report the tragedy and inspire a response in Christians, civil society and the pharmaceutical industry in particular.

“Cor Unum” will support Nyumbani Village, in the Archdiocese of Nairobi, and is soliciting funds for this purpose.

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