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Associated Press, September 30, 2004

Pope Again Stresses Chastity to Fight AIDS' Spread; praises drug-makers who keep AIDS medicines at low cost

DATELINE: VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II reiterated Wednesday the church's teaching that abstinence is the best way to stop the sexual spread of AIDS and praised drug manufacturers who are keeping down the prices of medicines for AIDS sufferers.

The Catholic Church has repeatedly rebuffed campaigns for it to endorse the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS. The Vatican holds that condoms, because they are a form of artificial birth control, cannot be used to help prevent the spread of the disease.

In a written message for the Church's World Day of the Sick, the pope described AIDS as "a pathology of the spirit" as well as a disease.

"To fight it in a responsible day, we need to increase prevention through education about respect of the sacred value of life and through formation of the correct practice of sexuality," the pontiff said.

Cases of AIDS spread via sex, John Paul said, "are best avoided above all through responsible conduct and the observance of the virtue of chastity."

A Vatican cardinal last year made headlines when he said condoms don't prevent AIDS and that using them might create a false sense of security. A few months later another leading cardinal said that if an HIV-positive person insists on having sex, he would be committing a sin if he doesn't use a condom.

The Day of the Sick is scheduled for February in Cameroon. AIDS has inflicted a heavy toll in Africa.

Activists have long been lobbying so that life-prolonging AIDS medicine, which affluent patients have been able to obtain, be made affordable for poor patients, and recent years have seen some drug companies make medicines available at low cost in Africa.

"Heartfelt applause is due the pharmaceutical industries which have committed themselves to keeping at low costs medicines useful in AIDS therapy," the pope said.

"Certainly, you need economic resources for scientific research in the health field and other resources are also necessary to market the discovered drugs, but when faced with an emergency like AIDS, safeguarding of human life must come before any other form of consideration," the pontiff said.

<< Associated Press -- 9/30/04 >>

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