Holy See: People Have More Dignity Than UN Recognizes

Delegation Offers Expert Variance to AIDS Statement

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NEW YORK, JUNE 14, 2011 (Zenit.org).- As the organization responsible for more than a quarter of the worldwide care of AIDS patients and those affected by the disease, the Church speaks on AIDS with plenty of experience.

And what it says, and has said again at the United Nations last week, is that the human person is better, stronger and more capable than ordinarily thought -- the human person has more dignity than the United Nations gives him credit for.

So when a U.N. political declaration on AIDS/HIV was accepted unanimously Friday, the Vatican delegation had points of contention.

To fight this infection -- 30 years after it first appeared and 30 million deaths later -- Jane Adolphe, associate professor of law at Ave Maria School of Law, spoke on behalf of Archbishop Francis Chullikatt and proposed a starting point: "the recognition that the human person can and should change irresponsible and dangerous behavior, rather than simply accept such behavior as if it were inevitable and unchangeable."

The Holy See's permanent observer at the United Nations was a voice that reminded that AIDS is about more than statistics, or ideologically tinged plans to fight it.

"Policies, programs and political statements are without meaning if we do not recognize the human dimension of this disease in the men, women and children who are living with and affected by HIV and AIDS," he said.

The archbishop promoted again "the only universally effective, safe and affordable means of halting the spread of the disease": abstinence, fidelity and the avoidance of irresponsible behaviors, as well as universal access to drugs that prevent the spread of HIV from mother-to-child.

And he decried those who ignore the positive results of abstinence- and fidelity-based programs in order to be "largely guided by ideology and the financial self interest which has grown as a result of the HIV disease."

In the same vein, he declared that access to funding should not be restricted to "ideologically preconceived notions" but rather be based on "the ability of organizations to provide safe, affordable and effective care to those who are in need."

Full respect

The Holy See delegation provided a "Statement of Interpretation," which it asked to be included in the report of the high-level plenary of the General Assembly.

The statement reiterated the Church's position on the terms "sexual and reproductive health" and "services," as well as "gender."

It asserted an understanding of "young people" that means states should respect the rights of parents and acknowledge the traditional family is indispensable in fighting AIDS.

The Holy See rejected references to terms such as "populations at high risk," saying these "treat persons as objects and can give the false impression that certain types of irresponsible behavior are somehow morally acceptable."

It reminded that it does not endorse the use of condoms for prevention programs or sex education classes.

It does not accept "harm reduction" efforts related to drug use, since these "do not respect the dignity of those who are suffering from drug addiction as they do not treat or cure the sick person, but instead falsely suggest that they cannot break free from the cycle of addiction."

And it rejected the characterization of persons who engage in prostitution as "sex workers," "as this can give the false impression that prostitution could somehow be a legitimate form of work."

"What is needed," the statement concluded, "is a value-based approach to counter the disease of HIV and AIDS, an approach which provides the necessary care and moral support for those infected and which promotes living in conformity with the norms of the natural moral order, an approach which respects fully the inherent dignity of the human person."

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On ZENIT's Web page:

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt's statement: www.zenit.org/article-32854?l=english

Statement of Interpretation by the Holy See: www.zenit.org/article-32853?l=english