Thursday June 17, 2010

AIDS Can Be Stopped with “Values-Based” Approach: Vatican Delegation to the UN

While condoms are failing to prevent the spread of AIDS, the sick are left untreated

By Hilary White

ROME, June 17, 2010 ( – In a speech on Monday, the Vatican Ambassador to the UN said the focus in the global fight against AIDS needs to shift to a “values-based” approach that will change people’s risky sexual behavior.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore also revealed that local health care facilities in developing countries are being instructed to turn away AIDS patients by international health funding agencies who have refused to fund anti-retroviral treatments. Migliore blasted these health organizations, accusing them of “silence and indifference” as millions are left to die untreated. Most international health groups, such as the World Health Organization, remain focused on “prevention,” which is essentially condom distribution.

But the Holy See delegation, said Migliore, “strongly recommends” that more international resources be dedicated to a “value-based approach” to prevention, centered on the “human dimension of sexuality.” Such an approach would move towards a “spiritual and human renewal” and change dangerous sexual behavior.

“The spread of AIDS can be stopped effectively, as has been affirmed also by public health experts, when this respect for the dignity of human nature and for its inherent moral law is included as an essential element in HIV prevention efforts.”

In the few places, such as Uganda, where governments have implemented a “values-based” approach, promoting sexual abstinence and fidelity in marriage ahead of condom use, rates of new infections have significantly fallen. But in recent years Ugandan health officials have said that these programs have been effectively sabotaged by a U.S.-led international health community dedicated to the use of condoms.

The Catholic Church is responsible for the lion’s share of care for AIDS patients in the developing world. But Migliore said that for these local providers there is a “gap in available funds for antiretroviral treatment among poor and marginalized populations.”

Migliore said that in countries such as Uganda, South Africa, Haiti, and Papua New Guinea, “international donors have instructed [health care facilities] not to enroll new patients into these programs.” The health care providers are also worried about further funding cutbacks for those already being treated, he said.

“The global community carries a serious responsibility to offer equitable and continuous access to such medications.”

“Failure to do so will not only cause untold loss and suffering to those individuals and families directly affected by the disease but also will have grave public health, social, and economic consequences for the entire human family.”

That condom distribution has failed to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa can be demonstrated by the continued rise in infection rates in countries that have been described by local health workers as “saturated” in condoms.

Migliore quoted the UN’s own statistics showing that 7,400 people become infected with HIV around the world every day. Currently, nearly 4 million people around the world are receiving treatment for HIV. While 9.7 million are still in need of drug treatments, for every 2 who commence treatment 5 more become infected.

During the African Synod in Rome last year, attended by over 300 African bishops, a Vatican insider told that of major concern to Catholic health agencies in Africa is the difficulty they experience in obtaining anti-retroviral drugs.

The source revealed that “the attitude” of many of the international funding agencies towards those already suffering from AIDS “is just ‘let them die.’”

In March last year, when Pope Benedict commented to journalists that the distribution of condoms only exacerbates the problems that cause the spread of AIDS in Africa, the mainstream media went into a frenzy that lasted months. International health organizations were joined by politicians and homosexualist lobbyists around the world in condemning the pope.

But the Church’s stand against condom use has received support from independent researchers who have studied the problem on the ground.

Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, has repeatedly defended Benedict. In March last year, shortly after the pope’s comments, Green said again that the evidence supports Benedict’s assertion.

“There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates,” he said.

Read related LSN coverage:

AIDS Prevention Expert Publicly Re-Affirms Pope’s Comment on Condoms Was Right