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Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
May 16, 2003
The approval by the House and Senate of H.R. 1298, "United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003," will help fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in developing nations, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Authorization of the $15 billion called for in President Bush's global health initiative is a major step toward substantially increasing our national commitment to confronting this pandemic, thus offering new hope to millions of people around the world.
I particularly applaud several specific provisions that will strengthen the U.S. response: (1) an amendment that urges the United States to work with other creditors to provide increased debt relief to poor countries, especially those suffering the most from HIV/AIDS; (2) a conscience clause that will ensure that Catholic Relief Services, and other religious organizations – who are the principal providers of care for those affected by HIV/AIDS – will not be discriminated against on the basis of their religious or moral convictions; and (3) a recognition that abstinence and fidelity must be principal components of prevention education in order to help curb the spread of HIV.
The Catholic community, with many others, has long worked for this new commitment on global health and debt relief. I hope that Congress will now appropriate the money needed to make this legislation a reality, and that the U.S. government will press for strengthening the debt relief program along the lines proposed by this legislation.
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