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Caritas advisor says AIDS conference valuing religious input

Fr Robert Vitillo has said that religious groups, which were marginalised during the last World AIDS conference in Barcelona, are being taken much more seriously at this week's Bangkok event.

Fr Vitello, an American, is director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and a special adviser on AIDS to Caritas Internationalis.

"At the Barcelona conference many people, including myself, from faith-based organisations felt that faith-based people weren't really welcomed," he said. "Our applications to present abstracts or present posters or participate in workshops were not accepted."

Fr Vitello criticised the US Government's decision to scale back its participation in the Bangkok Conference. He said many AIDS activists believe the Bush administration is bothered that its emphasis on abstinence and faithfulness gets lost amid the focus on condoms in many AIDS programs. The US government's refusal to accept generic drugs approved by the World Health Organisation as safe and effective has also angered health professionals.

"It's important for the US to continue to be part of these conferences, to hear the perspectives of people from all over the world and to get a better sense of the impact that policies of the US government have on people living with HIV and AIDS," said Fr Vitillo, who also serves as president of the board of directors of the National Catholic AIDS Network.

Fr Vitillo predicted the US government position against generic drugs would also come under fire at the conference.

"This will severely limit the amount of help that the AIDS initiative of the Bush administration can bring to people, even though the initiative is otherwise very positive. The US government needs to hear these messages from people, even when there are negative reactions to what it's doing," he said.

US church official says input at AIDS forum welcomed by organizers (Catholic News Service 12/7/04)

Abstinence controversy at world AIDS meeting (Catholic World News 12/7/04)
Ugandan President: Abstinence and Marriage to defeat AIDS ( 12/7/04)
Ugandan President stirs AIDS summit proposing abstinence (Catholic News Agency 13/7/04)
HIV Discrimination Rife in Health Profession (Australian Red Cross 13/7/04)
UNAIDS head says churches critical to fight (CathNews 13/7/04)
XV International AIDS Conference, Bangkok
Faith, Knowledge & Care: Promoting Access for All - African Jesuit AIDS Network Powerpoint Presentation
U.N.: Asia Is Becoming the Heartland of AIDS ( 7/7/04)
Catholic Church Leads in Antiretroviral Therapy (Catholic Information Service for Africa 6/7/04)
Austen Ivereigh: Catholics, condoms and Africa
Catholic Church rolls out Aids drug programme (Mail & Guardian 6/7/04)
AIDS conference must live up to 'Access for all' (Independent Catholic News 6/7/04)
Australian AIDS Fund Inc.
Health & Development Networks
Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance

14 Jul 2004