Global Action Against AIDS Urged by Holy See

In a Message of the President of Council for Health Care Workers

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A Holy See official appealed to governments and to Catholic agencies and associations to work for AIDS prevention and to support all the sick suffering this "terrible evil."



A message for World AIDS Day, signed Monday by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, is one of love and hope to those affected by the virus and to their relatives. World AIDS Day, observed Dec. 1, was instituted by the United Nations in 1988.

Cardinal Lozano Barragán said the pandemic is growing. At the end of 2002, 42 million people were living with HIV/AIDS.

In that year alone, 3.1 million people died and 5 million were added to those already infected, according to the U.N. Joint Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

According to UNAIDS statistics at the end of 2002, there were:

-- 42 million people (adults and children) living with HIV/AIDS, including 19.2 million women and 3.2 million children under 15 years;

-- 5 million new HIV/AIDS infections, of whom 2 million were women and 800,000 were children under 15 years;

-- 3.1 million deaths were recorded due to AIDS, of whom 1.2 million were women and 610,000 were children under 15 years.

Cardinal Lozano Barragán said that the causes of the sickness were "pan-sexualism" and drug-addiction, along with poverty, urbanization, unemployment, mobility and immigration. Mass media also have a role in the spread of the disease.

Given the enormity of the problem, the cardinal appealed to the international community, to governments in general, and to the Church in particular, to "promote a campaign for sensitizing and educating the population, one that is based on sure and authentic human and spiritual values, capable of establishing relevant education in favor of the culture of life and responsible love."

He warned against campaigns that are based "on policies that foster immoral and hedonistic lifestyles and behavior, favoring the spread of the evil." Instead, he said that "the virtue of chastity is of paramount importance for the effective prevention of HIV/AIDS."

The cardinal also emphasized the need to "take care of the humanitarian, social and health needs of the orphans whose number progressively increases with the spread of the pandemic."

In fact, UNICEF and UNAIDS estimate that in the year 2010 there will be 25 million orphans due to this illness.

The struggle against AIDS also calls for facilitating "the patients' access to general medicine for opportunistic diseases and as much as possible to anti-retroviral medicine, so as to stop the scandalous death rate in poor countries that cries to God for vengeance," the cardinal exhorted.

The president of the health-care council also stressed the need to "avoid every form of exclusion, discrimination and stigmatization of people who are HIV-positive or AIDS patients, accepting them fraternally in the families, society and the Church community of which they are full members with rights."

When the disease first appeared, John Paul II "asked for a major mobilization of forces and resources, and a concrete commitment of the Church both in prevention and assistance in various ways to the AIDS patients."

The Pope wished to remind the ecclesial community and society about "the importance of respecting the religious and moral values of sexuality and matrimony, namely fidelity, chastity and abstinence, and also offering through her many structures valuable human, social, medical and spiritual assistance to the sick people."

In connection with AIDS, John Paul II appealed to civil authorities "to provide correct information to the population and aid to the poor" and called scientists and researchers "to a renewed solidarity with the AIDS patients, doing all they can to advance their biomedical research on HIV/AIDS, so that they may discover new effective medications that are capable of stemming the phenomenon."