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Pope urges UN to back guaranteed medical care for HIV/AIDS

Criticising 'exorbitant' prices for HIV/AIDS medicines, Pope John Paul II called on wealthy nations to guarantee medical care for people infected with the deadly disease in poor countries.

In a message to a special UN General Assembly in New York dedicated to HIV and AIDS, the Holy Father praised a recently announced global UN fund to fight the disease as a "cause of hope for all".

The message, addressed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, was released at the Vatican on Tuesday.

The pope said the international community's battle against the AIDS pandemic "must be inspired by a constructive vision of human dignity" that encourages young people to develop greater sexual responsibility. Over the years, the Vatican has condemned recourse to condom campaigns to stop the disease's spread.

He said he was particularly concerned about the lack of access in poor countries, especially in Africa, to HIV drugs commonly used in developed nations.