Vatican Creates Foundation To Fund HIV/AIDS Charities
The Vatican on Friday announced the establishment of the Good Samaritan Foundation, which aims to channel donations from individual, group and government to Catholic organizations that help people living with HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Pope John Paul II started the foundation with a $132,000 donation from his personal charity fund. GSF will be based in Rome and led by Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head of the pontifical council on health issues. The Vatican opposes the use of condoms and maintains that the spread of HIV/AIDS is "best avoided above all through the responsible conduct and the observance of the virtue of chastity," according to the Inquirer. Barragan said that the Vatican's stance should not prevent potential contributors from donating, the Inquirer reports (Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/18). "I don't care about the moral problem at the moment. Everyone has the right to his point of view on the subject. But while we're discussing whether we should say 'yes' or 'no' to the use of condoms, millions of people are dying," Barragan said (Agence France-Presse, 12/17). According to Barragan, 26.7% of the world's HIV/AIDS clinics are run by Catholic groups and need money for medicines (ANSA, 12/17). The pope has asked "all people of good will, particularly those in the economically advanced nations, to contribute," Barragan said (Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/18). Barragan added that Vatican officials are "offering our cooperation to help those with AIDS" and do not "want to compete with anyone, we don't want to duplicate efforts, we don't want any conflict. We just want to give help where it is needed."
However, some AIDS advocates said they believe the Vatican's efforts are counterproductive, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. An unnamed spokesperson for the U.K. HIV/AIDS charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said, "This initiative to support people living with HIV and AIDS is good news. However, we must also recognize that condoms have a vital role to play in preventing the spread of HIV and controlling the worldwide pandemic." Frances Kissling, president of the U.S.-based Catholics for a Free Choice, said, "It is not medically wise to separate treatment from prevention in the 21st century. People with AIDS are living longer, and they are going to be sexually active. That is the challenge this new Vatican foundation will be facing. It is inadequate to only tell people not to have sex." She added, "I would hope that there are some governments that will say, 'We appreciate what you do but we must reserve our funds for those who both treat and prevent'" (Pullella, Newark Star-Ledger, 12/18).