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Catholic bishops back government AIDS plan

The leadership of South Africa's Catholic Church on Wednesday welcomed the government's undertaking to mount an anti-retroviral HIV/Aids treatment program.

At the end of its plenary assembly outside Durban yesterday, the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) warned that logistical problems should not be allowed to slow down the roll-out of the drugs program.

The South African Cabinet has asked the Department of Health to draw up a comprehensive operational plan by the end of next month, for the anti-retroviral therapy programme in state hospitals and clinics.

"If carried out in full, this would represent a critical step in bringing hope and relief to great numbers of people affected by the pandemic, and in easing the burden on health personnel who are working in stressful conditions in hospitals and clinics," the SACBC said in a statement.

"Logistical considerations, and the necessary support infrastructure for such a comprehensive plan are indeed challenges to be faced. But these cannot be allowed to further delay our response as a nation to those most in need of anti-retroviral therapy," the bishops said.

The week-long conference, which brought together 28 bishops from South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, ended on Wednesday. The 28 bishops represent about 4,5-million Catholics in the three countries.

The bishops urged all sectors of society to work together in implementing the program and called on the government to provide "effective and sustained leadership" in the months ahead.

Mail & Guardian Online

Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference
Antiretroviral Budget is the Vital Issue ( Day)
Overview of antiretroviral drugs (UCSF Center for HIV Information)

14 Aug 2003