MESSAGE OF JOHN PAUL II
To His Excellency Mr Kofi Annan
The holding of a Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on 25-27 June to examine the various aspects of the HIV/AIDS problem is a most opportune initiative. To you and to all the delegations present I send my best wishes, in the hope that your deliberations will mark a decisive step in the struggle against the disease.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is undoubtedly one of the major catastrophes of our time, especially in Africa. It is not only a health problem, since the disease has tragic consequences for the social, economic and political life of peoples.
On the contrary, in the fight against the epidemic, the international community should draw its inspiration from a constructive vision of human dignity and focus its attention on young people, by helping them to attain responsible emotional maturity.
The Catholic Church, through her Magisterium and her commitment to the victims of HIV/AIDS, continues to affirm the sacred value of life. Her efforts with regard to prevention and assistance to those affected, often in cooperation with the institutions of the United Nations, are in keeping with her mission of love and service to the lives of all, from conception to natural death.
Two current problems: transmission from mother to child and lack of access to medical care
The transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child is an extremely distressing problem. While in developed countries there has been success in noticeably reducing the number of children born with the virus, thanks to suitable treatment, in developing countries, particularly in Africa, those who come into the world with the disease are very numerous and this is a cause of great suffering for families and the community.
When we add to this gloomy picture the distress of the orphans of parents who have died from AIDS, we are faced with a situation to which the international community cannot fail to respond.
The second problem is that of access of AIDS patients to medical care, and as far as possible, to anti-retroviral treatment. We know that the prices of these medicines are excessively high, sometimes even exorbitant, in relation to the resources of the citizens of the poorest countries. The problem includes various economic and legal aspects, among which are certain interpretations of the right to intellectual property.
I cannot end this message without thanking the scientists and researchers of the whole world for their efforts to find treatments for this terrible illness. My gratitude also goes to health-care professionals and volunteers for the love and competence which they demonstrate in the human, religious and medical assistance they give to their brothers and sisters.
Upon all engaged in the struggle against HIV/AIDS, particularly those living with the disease and their families, as well as upon all taking part in the Special Session, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God.
*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.28 p.9.
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