CHURCHES CALL FOR REAL COMMITMENT TO FIGHT HIV/AIDS
Religious Groups Support New York March and Rally 6/23 As U.N. Special Session Nears
June 21, 2001, NEW YORK CITY -- With negotiators still deadlocked over the wording of the Declaration of Commitment for next week's United Nations Special Session on HIV/AIDS, the National Council of Churches (NCC) and its global Church World Service ministry today warned against the danger of the meeting issuing a weak statement or none at all.
Given the seriousness of the AIDS crisis, the group warned, it is imperative the June 25-27 meeting result in a substantive, strong declaration and a real commitment from all nations, including the United States.
"So far, the pace and depth of the political commitment required to reverse the global scourge of HIV/AIDS has not been forthcoming," remarked the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC General Secretary. "We need a solid declaration from the worlds governments, not just old, empty rhetoric. The Bush Administration needs to show real leadership. This issue must not be nickeled and dimed."
The NCC, the nations leading ecumenical organization with 36 member denominations comprising 50 million adherents, calls for a declaration that supports the human rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS and takes steps to protect vulnerable groups. The group also calls for a sustained commitment to $10 billion per year in multilateral resources to reverse the pandemic.
As a key participant in the Jubilee 2000 campaign, the group said it was not satisfied with the low level of debt relief achieved and was calling for deeper debt relief in light of the AIDS crisis. In addition, the group is asking the worlds governments to ensure access and availability to drugs, including generics, to fight AIDS and other infectious diseases.
To remind policy makers of the seriousness of the issue and the concerns of many people of faith, the NCC and its global service and witness ministry, Church World Service, have endorsed the three Ds of the "Stop Global AIDS Now" March and Rally set for Saturday, June 23, in New York City - Dollars, Debt and Drugs.
Several religious leaders will speak. In addition to the NCC/CWS, religious groups endorsing the event also include such national groups as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, Church Women United, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, American Jewish World Service and The Central Conference of American Rabbis. A number of local congregations are also actively involved.
"In the United States, this call for Dollars, the cancellation of Debt, and Drugs means marshalling renewed political will," explained Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director of Church World Service. "The United States is still not doing its part, as one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and has skewed priorities. We must remind policy makers that Americans want their government to respond to this crisis."
Many of the discussions at the U.N. General Assemblys Special Session on HIV/AIDS will center on the Global AIDS Fund.
"Though the United States enjoys nearly 30 percent of the worlds wealth, our recent contribution to the Global AIDS Fund, a multilateral Fund announced by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in May, was a paltry $200 million in redirected monies," continued the Rev. McCullough.
"We must do much more," he said. "It is also critical that the Global AIDS Fund provide for the bulk procurement of AIDS drugs, including generics, AIDS diagnostics, and other AIDS commodities at the best world prices. Governments and NGOs, especially those in developing countries, must be assured direct access to financial resources to expand the full range of programs for prevention, care, and treatment."
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