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USCCB and Catholic agencies say House must not cut funding for AIDS prevention

.- The U.S. Catholic bishops and Catholic Relief Services are calling on all members of Congress to reinstate funding for the “ABC” model of AIDS prevention, which promotes abstinence and fidelity.

This comes after a House Subcommittee decided to alter the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) by eliminating in 2008 the modest level of designated funding that currently promotes abstinence and fidelity as ways to combat the spread of HIV.

“Without requiring this funding, Congress risks diluting our nation’s effort to prevent and treat the modern-day scourge of HIV/AIDS,” said Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy.

In a statement, the bishop said the U.S. bishops’ conference deeply regretted the action by the House Subcommittee “that seriously undermines U.S. leadership in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.”

“This action rejects tried and true methods that have proven to actually reduce HIV infections. If allowed to go forward, this change could cost lives,” he said.

The ABC model stands for abstinence, be faithful and condoms, when necessary. The U.S. bishops and Catholic Relief Services consider abstinence and fidelity the only sure methods of preventing HIV infection.

The actions of the subcommittee seem to ignore the success rate of the ABC model. In at least 7 of the 15 focus countries that have been operating according to the ABC model, HIV/AIDS prevalence rates has declined.

“In our extensive experience, we have seen that only an approach to HIV prevention that has sufficient funding for groups to conduct abstinence and faithfulness education has yielded meaningful advances in stopping the spread of HIV,” said Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services.

“Without adequate public debate, the Subcommittee has signaled that it is prepared to abandon the consensus on how best to fight HIV/AIDS,” he added.

The U.S. bishops and Catholic Relief Services are urging Congress “to pursue evidence-based interventions that have a proven track record and that fully respect the lives and dignity of those struggling with this tragic disease,” Bishop Wenski said.


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