Faith leaders praise goals in fighting AIDS

June 13, 2011

Religious leaders and representatives of faith-based organizations
are giving generally high marks to a United Nations AIDS meeting that
set new targets to combat the continued spread of HIV/AIDS.

The
New York meeting at the UN June 8–10 was marked by frequent references
to the past three decades in which acquired immune deficiency syndrome
has claimed more than 30 million lives. UN member states agreed on a
final document which called for strengthening measurable targets to
fight HIV/AIDS.

This goal includes universal access to treatment
by the year 2015 for the prevention of the spread of HIV (human
immunodeficiency virus), as well as support, care and treatment for
those dealing with HIV infection. Another four-year goal is to reduce by
half the rate of HIV infection among those injecting drugs.

The
final document, adopted by the General Assembly, also contained the most
specific language yet in a UN document about the need for the use of
condoms to reduce the spread of HIV. That language was opposed by the
Vatican and a number of predominantly Muslim countries.

J. P.
Mokgethi-Heath, acting executive director of the South Africa-based
Inter­national Network of Religious Lead­ers Living with or Personally
Affected by HIV and AIDS, praised much of the document, though he said
he was concerned that the final document's "action plan" did not contain
enough specific language about those most affected by HIV, including
sex workers, men who have sex with men and intravenous drug users.

In
an interview on the final day of the meeting, Lisandro Orlov, of the
United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argen­tina, based in Buenos Aires,
said the best way to look at the document was as a "work in progress."
He said he is returning to Argentina "an optimist."

"We need to be
positive," Orlov said, praising the fact that conservative forces "did
not erase the spirit of previous declarations."

In a statement,
Peter Prove, executive director of the Geneva-based Ec­u­menical
Advocacy Alliance, said his organization appreciated "that the
declaration reaffirms the centrality of human rights in the AIDS
response, and focuses on enabling legal, social and policy frameworks
for the elimination of stigma, discrimination, and violence. Human
rights obligations, especially the principle of nondiscrimination,
reflect fundamental faith principles concerning respect for human
dignity."

At the same time, Prove said, "despite recognizing the
disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on women, the political declaration
sets no specific prevention, treatment, and care targets for women and
girls."  —ENInews