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Catholic Bishops Welcome New Bill for Global HIV/AIDS Relief

WASHINGTON, March 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) welcomes the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' February 27 approval of a new, bipartisan bill to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. House debate is expected in March.

Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Florida, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, both affirmed key provisions in the bill.

The reauthorization increases current funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to $50 billion over five years and provides assistance to additional countries in the Caribbean, South and Southeast Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe.

"We welcome this strong reaffirmation of U.S. leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria on behalf of millions of the world's most vulnerable people and communities," Bishop Wenski said.

"The proposed reauthorization of PEPFAR is an essential life-giving response to an epidemic that continues to threaten current and future generations, especially in Africa," he added.

If passed by Congress, this PEPFAR program has the potential to prevent twelve million new infections by 2012, support treatment for three million people already infected, and care for an additional twelve million people, including five million orphans and vulnerable children overseas.

Cardinal Rigali further commented, "The new bill reflects a commitment to saving human lives as well as our solidarity with those suffering overseas. It is vital to preserve and expand proven life-saving programs -- especially abstinence and fidelity education -- while refusing to dilute and distort a successful AIDS relief program with family planning and 'reproductive health' activities."

"I join Bishop Wenski in urging Congress to build upon a consensus that maintains PEPFAR's compassionate, life-saving focus," Cardinal Rigali said.

SOURCE United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
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