World AIDS Day 2011: Keeping Perspective on What's Really at Stake in the Battle against HIV and AIDS

Dec 01, 2011, 12:30 ET from Catholics for Choice

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This World AIDS Day is marked by some bright spots of hope. According to a recent report from UNAIDS, the epidemic has leveled off, with 2.7 million people becoming newly infected every year, and almost seven million people in treatment that helps them live longer, healthier lives. The picture was very different 20 years ago, when the rate of new infections was steadily rising and many affected individuals went without treatment.

Yet there is one area where there has been too little progress: the Catholic hierarchy's official stance on condoms. Even after Pope Benedict's guarded approval of condoms in certain circumstances last year, many within the hierarchy are entrenched in their opposition to this key weapon against the transmission of HIV.

Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said, "Three decades into the fight against the AIDS epidemic, we still can't count on the hierarchy using its influence to join wholeheartedly in the campaign to prevent the spread of HIV. By creating unnecessary confusion around the use of condoms, the bishops continually take the focus away from this global health crisis while keeping this essential prevention tool out of the hands of those vulnerable to HIV infection.

"This type of thinking—putting ideological concerns ahead of the greater good—also characterizes many of the bishops' recent activities in the US public sphere. With their new Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is waging a war in the name of religious freedom that will not serve Catholics, religious freedom or the American public well. The aim of the committee appears to be to allow the USCCB to follow special rules for the type of healthcare services they provide in exchange for taxpayer money. For example, they want to continue their practice of not offering condoms as part of federally funded HIV outreach programs. Since polls show that 65 percent of American Catholic voters believe that hospitals and clinics that take taxpayer dollars should not be allowed to refuse to provide medical procedures or medications based on religious beliefs, this scenario does not sit well with most Catholics.

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SOURCE Catholics for Choice