Adopted by the Executive Board of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism March, 2004
RESOLUTION ON GLOBAL AIDS
The AIDS emergency is fast becoming one of the worst health catastrophes in human history. Even as the HIV virus continues to affect millions in the United States and Canada, around the world more than forty million people are now infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Already, nearly thirty million people have died from AIDS. Every day 14,000 people are infected and 8,500 people die. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 30 million people are infected, and 13 countries have infection rates greater than 10% of the adult population. AIDS is decimating an entire generation.
Compounding the urgency of the situation are the secondary aspects of the AIDS crisis. Across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Americas, AIDS has killed or incapacitated 7 million agricultural workers so that even without serious drought conditions, 15 million people are at risk of starvation this year. High rates of HIV/AIDS among teachers, law enforcement personnel, health care staff, and other workers threatens the economic security and future of many countries in the developing world. Fourteen million children have lost at least one parent to the virus, dooming a second generation to poverty. Tuberculosis and malaria, two deadly diseases in their own right, are responsible for more than half of all AIDS deaths in the developing world, and together AIDS, TB, & malaria kill six million people every year.
The scope of the crisis is such that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently said: "AIDS is more devastating than any terrorist attack, any conflict, or any weapon of mass destruction... AIDS shatters families, tears the fabric of societies, and undermines governments. AIDS can destroy countries and destabilize entire regions." Moreover, the epicenter of the AIDS crisis has begun to shift, as India, Russia, and China face the next wave of millions of AIDS infections.
In the face of this tragedy, there is new hope. Governments in the developed world have made historic commitments to fight AIDS, most dramatically, President Bush's $15 billion program over 5 years. The antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that are widely available in the developed world have reduced AIDS-related death rates by more than 80% and have reduced Mother-To-Child transmission rates. Access to these drugs has resulted in an increased life expectancy following diagnosis to more than 10 years. Furthermore, with the introduction of high quality generic drugs, the cost of delivering ARVs to the 6 million people living with full-blown AIDS in poor countries around the world has decreased dramatically in recent years. Moreover, new fixed dose combination drugs, which allow people infected with HIV to take just one pill twice a day, have dramatically reduced the complexity of AIDS drug regiments.
However, many pharmaceutical companies around the world are still creating barriers that prevent the production, importation, and exportation of generic drugs. And too often, in countries ravaged by HIV/AIDS, governments have been slow to respond to the crisis and resistant to providing treatment in the public sector.
In our tradition, every life has infinite value, stemming from the idea that each of us is b'tzelem elohim, made in the image of God. From this understanding comes the directive of pikuach nefesh, the mandate that saving a life supersedes nearly any other commandment. Similarly, the words of Leviticus 19 -- -- "Do not stand idly by in the blood of your neighbor" demand that we respond when we know of the suffering of another.
THEREFORE, the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism resolves to:
Call upon the United States and Canadian governments and governments and non-governmental organizations around the world to commit to funding a need-based response to the Global AIDS pandemic;
Call on the United States and Canada to contribute their fair share, relative to their wealth, to the global effort to combat AIDS, TB, & Malaria, without restrictions that limit options for treatment and prevention programs;
Support efforts to combat the Global AIDS pandemic that integrate comprehensive, science-based prevention strategies; access to life-saving medications; and universal AIDS related education;
Support efforts to combat the Global AIDS pandemic that incorporate a comprehensive response to the enormous and growing orphan crisis, including universal access to education, housing, health care, and other social services;
Support U.S. and Canadian funding of bilateral aid programs, and of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, & Malaria, which is already coordinating much of the global response to the AIDS crisis;
Support U.S. and Canadian trade policies and application of international patent law that ensure access to affordable generic drugs for all developing countries;
Support the use of the United States government's influence as the largest donor to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to negotiate debt cancellation for all poor countries facing the AIDS crises, to enable greater investment in AIDS education, prevention and treatment;
Support efforts to call on multinational corporations and their affiliated companies to provide immediate affordable access to AIDS treatment to their workers and their dependents including advocacy and shareholder action;
Encourage congregations and communities to support twinning projects with communities affected by the AIDS pandemic through organizations like American Jewish World Service;
Commend those governments, international organizations, corporations, and private foundations that have taken the lead in combating the global AIDS pandemic; and
Reaffirm our commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS in the United States and Canada.