Rabbi Saperstein: "The progress that has already been made to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS can and will continue, and this pandemic will be defeated."
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December 1, 2011, Washington D.C. -- On the occasion of World AIDS Day, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center, issued the following statement:
Throughout the more than two decades that have passed since the establishment of World AIDS Day, incredible strides have been made in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. The number of people dying of AIDS, though still tragic at close to 2 million, is decreasing, as is the number of new infections each year.
Nevertheless, the global AIDS crisis remains among the most urgent crises in the world today. In Canada, the number of young people ages 15 to 19 diagnosed with HIV/AIDS continues to rise. Particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, the challenges remain profound: 22.5 million people in that region are living with HIV/AIDS. There is much more work to be done, requiring the participation of individuals, religious groups, businesses, non-profit organizations and governments alike.
The Talmud teaches, "He who saves one life, it is as though he has saved the universe" (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). For that reason among many, we applaud President Obama's announcement today of $50 million in increased funding for US facilities fighting AIDS as well as a renewed US commitment to helping 6 million people worldwide access antiretroviral drugs. With more than 33 million people living with HIV and more than 2 million new infections each year, our increased commitment is essential.
With a growing array of tools to fight HIV/AIDS - from sharing knowledge to distributing anti-retroviral drugs - we are closer each year to arresting its spread. A comprehensive strategy must involve prevention, education, care, and treatment. U.S. leadership is vital to this effort.
The progress that has already been made to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS can and will continue, and this pandemic will be defeated. We look forward to continuing to be a part of hastening that brighter future.