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House Subcommittee Cuts Abstinence Education. Catholic Agencies Say Action Will Cripple AIDS Fight
WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Catholic agencies are expressing disappointment at a House panel's recent decision to remove abstinence education from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

The U.S. bishops' conference and Catholic Relief Services say they believe the country's ability to fight the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS was weakened by the House subcommittee's decision last week.

The House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs decided to alter the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), by eliminating in 2008 the funding that currently promotes abstinence and fidelity as ways to combat the spread of HIV.

Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the episcopal committee on international policy, said: "The U.S. bishops' conference deeply regrets the action by the 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."

Effective

In at least seven of the 15 PEPFAR focus countries that have been using abstinence training, all the evidence to date shows that the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is in decline.

Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services, said: "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.

"Without adequate public debate, the subcommittee has signaled that it is prepared to abandon the consensus on how best to fight HIV/AIDS at the very moment we should be moving forward and not fighting old battles."

Hackett continued, "Since PEPFAR was launched in 2003, this consensus approach has yielded significant results in combating this terrible disease."

Bishop Wenski called upon "congressional leadership and all members to reinstate the modest requirement designating funding for the two vital pillars of abstinence and fidelity."

He concluded, "Without requiring this funding, Congress risks diluting our nation's effort to prevent and treat the modern-day scourge of HIV/AIDS."