U.S. Asks Catholic Institutions for Help in AIDS Struggle

Notes Church’s Big Role in Health Care in Poor Nations

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ROME, JULY 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The United States appealed for the collaboration of Catholic organizations in the world fight against the spread of AIDS.

The U.S. government called for collaboration because 27% of the health structures in poor countries are run by Catholics, said U.S. global AIDS coordinator Randall Tobias, at a videoconference organized by the American Embassy to the Holy See.

Among the Holy See officials present was Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, according to the Vatican agency Fides.

Tobias said the United States intends to assign $15 billion in the next five years to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The head of the global anti-AIDS program said the U.S. government would pressure the market to reduce the price of anti-AIDS drugs. It would so by exploiting competition between companies to lower the selling price of anti-retroviral therapy, he said.

Washington has asked pharmaceutical companies to have their new products tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in order to be purchased and distributed in global anti-AIDS program.

The Catholic health-care representatives said drugs must be distributed to poor countries and that the problem of tackling the pandemic must go hand in hand with development programs.

Another official on hand was Mario Marazziti, of the Rome-based lay Community of Sant’Egidio, which is working in Africa to prevent and treat AIDS.

Marazziti said that in addition to distributing treatment, it is necessary to provide training for local medical and paramedical personnel. He underlined the role of the media in the struggle against AIDS: «When African people realize that AIDS can be cured, taboo and prejudice disappear.»

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