Statement by H.E. Archbishop Francis Chullikatt
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
on the adoption of the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS
before the High-level meeting on the comprehensive review
of the progress achieved in realizing the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS
and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS
of the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly
New York, 10 June 2011
As we gather
here today in this high-level meeting of dignitaries from around the world, we
do so with the recognition that we stand as one family with those living with
HIV and AIDS and remember in our thoughts and prayers those whom this disease
has taken from this world. Policies,
programmes 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.
Of course, any policy, programme or political statement of this noble
organization has little meaning if it is not implemented by the virtuous
actions that will help all of those in need.
years into the HIV and AIDS disease, the international community continues to
search for answers and solutions to halt the spread of HIV and to provide
treatment, care and support to the over 33 million people living with HIV and
AIDS. From the beginning, Catholic organizations, religious
congregations and lay associations have been at the forefront in providing
prevention, treatment, care and support to millions around the world while, at
the same time, promoting the need for a value-based response to this
disease. Through its approximately 117,000
health care facilities around the world, the Catholic Church alone provides
over 25% of all care for those living with HIV and AIDS, especially
children. These institutions affiliated
with the Church are at the forefront for providing a response which sees people
not as statistics but rather in their dignity and worth as brothers, sisters
and neighbors of the same human family.
remains committed to achieving the goal of halting and reversing the spread of
HIV by promoting the only universally effective, safe and affordable means of
halting the spread of the disease: abstinence before marriage and mutual
fidelity within marriage, avoiding risk taking and irresponsible behaviors and
promoting universal access to drugs which prevent the spread of HIV from
mother-to-child. In fact, there is a
growing international recognition that the abstinence and fidelity based
programs in parts of Africa have been successful in reducing HIV infection,
where transmission has largely occurred within the general population. However, despite this acknowledgement, some
continue to deny these results and instead are largely guided by ideology and
the financial self interest which has grown as a result of the HIV disease.
spread of HIV does not require expensive drugs and commodities, which seek to
diminish the consequences of dangerous and irresponsible behavior, but rather
requires a value-based response which recognizes the need to promote the
inherent dignity of the human person, thus, responsible sexual behavior and
recognition of responsibility to oneself and one’s own community. Preventing the spread of HIV requires not
only identifying those persons who are at risk of becoming infected, but also
identifying the ways and means to help people in avoiding the very activity
which puts them at risk of becoming infected.
The best cure is prevention that awakens the consciousness of
individuals who may be lured into dangerous practices that threaten them and
those with whom they may live or otherwise encounter.
New studies have
demonstrated that access to anti-retroviral drugs provides not only a means for
treating the disease but also a means for reducing the risks of spreading
it. However, access to anti-retroviral
therapy continues to be out of reach for many of the poorest and most
vulnerable. In low and middle income
countries approximately 15 million people are living with HIV but only 5.2
million have access to the life-saving treatment they need. In addition, these same populations continue
to lack access to diagnostic technologies and testing equipment which allows
for more effective and safe means of treating those living with HIV and AIDS.
showing that funding to combat HIV and AIDS fell in 2010--for the first time in
the history of combating the disease--we are reminded that political
declarations and good will need to be matched by concrete actions on the ground
and at the international level. The
first step in taking such action is to ensure that the 10 million people
lacking access to life saving drugs are provided the safe and affordable
treatment, care and support required.
The approximately $7 billion U.S. dollars which would be needed to
provide this treatment is a substantial sum but pales in comparison to the
money and resources spent by countries in the pursuit of war and other
destructive activities such as the global enterprise that surrounds arms and
drug trading. In addition to closing the
funding gap, countries and the private sector must continue to reassess
pharmaceutical intellectual property rights to ensure that these protections
serve as a means for greater research and advancement, rather than becoming yet
another barrier to accessing necessary drugs and medical equipment.
funding and access to necessary drugs is a requirement for addressing the lack
of access to treatment, care and support, so too must greater considerations be
given to ensuring that these resources are used in a manner which is effective
and responsible. Therefore, it should be
ensured that access to funding is not restricted to ideologically preconceived
notions but rather is based on the ability of organizations to provide safe,
affordable and effective care to those who are in need.
those living with HIV and AIDS does not end at providing access to drugs but
requires supporting the families affected.
The approximately 16 million children worldwide who have been orphaned
by AIDS require compassionate care and a structured environment so that they
can receive the proper psycho-social support and become active members of the
community. Similarly, families which are
providing support for family members who are living with HIV and AIDS must be
given the necessary economic, social, medical and spiritual support. This also requires adopting policies which
eliminate discrimination against those living with HIV and members of their
HIV and AIDS has
been and remains one of the major tragedies of our time. It is not only a health problem of enormous
magnitude, but it is also a social, economic and political concern. It is also a moral question, as the causes of
the disease clearly reflect a serious crisis of values. Prevention first and foremost must be
directed toward formation and education in responsible human behavior or, in
other words, acquired human dignity.
This is the key to avoiding the infection. The starting point must be the recognition
that the human person can and should change irresponsible and dangerous
behavior, rather than simply accept such behaviour as if it were inevitable and
unchangeable. Moreover, in the field of
formation and education, especially as regards children, their parents have the
primary right, responsibility and duty and their contributions are extremely
helpful and efficacious.
The fight to
eliminate the spread of HIV and the work to provide universal access to
treatment, care and support also requires broader social and personal
development. In areas which lack access
to clean drinking water, sanitation facilities, sufficient nutrition, adequate
housing and basic health care, the ability of individuals and organizations to
provide treatment to those living with HIV and AIDS and ward off opportunistic
infections will continue to be elusive.
Likewise, personal development requires that individuals are provided
the education, counseling, and spiritual support necessary to make responsible
decisions and to achieve their full potential.
The Holy See and the various organizations of the Catholic Church remain
committed to living and working in solidarity with those living with HIV and
AIDS and will continue to advocate steadfastly for the demands of the common
good and providing support and care to those most in need.
Thank you, Mr. President.