We are publishing the Statement of Interpretation pronounced on 10 June in New York by Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations during the high-level plenary on HIV/AIDS (8-10 June) thirty years after the discovery of the virus.
Defending the dignity of human life from concepts which stand against natural law
On the adoption of the declaration, the Holy See offers the following statement of interpretation. I would ask that the text of this statement, which explains the official position of the Holy See, kindly be included in the report of this high-level plenary of the General Assembly.
In providing more than one fourth of all care for those who are suffering from HIV and AIDS, Catholic healthcare institutions know well the importance of access to treatment, care and support for the millions of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.
The position of the Holy See on the expressions “sexual and reproductive health” and “services”, “reproductive rights” and on the Secretary-General’s Global Strategy on Women and Children’s Health is to be interpreted in terms of its reservations in the Report of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) of 1994. The position of the Holy See on the word “gender” and its various uses is to be interpreted in terms of its reservations in the Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women.
The Holy See understands that, when referring to “young people”, the definition of which enjoying no international consensus, States must always respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents to provide appropriate direction and guidance to their children, which includes having primary responsibility for the upbringing, development, and education of their children (cf. Convention on the Rights of the Child, Articles 5, 18, and 27,2). States must acknowledge that the family, based on marriage being the equal partnership between one man and one woman and the natural and fundamental group unit of society, is indispensable in the fight against HIV and AIDS for the airily is where children learn moral values to help them live in a responsible manner and where the greater part of care and support is provided (cf. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16,3).
The Holy See rejects references to terms such as “populations at risk” and “populations at higher risk” because they treat persons as objects and can give the false impression that certain types of irresponsible behavior are somehow morally acceptable. The Holy See does not endorse the use of condoms/commodities as part of HIV and AIDS prevention programmes or classes/programmes of education in sex/sexuality. Prevention programmes or classes/programmes of education in human sexuality should focus not on trying to convince the world that risky and dangerous behaviour forms part of an acceptable lifestyle, but rather should focus on risk avoidance, which is ethically and empirically sound. The only safe and completely reliable method of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV is abstinence before marriage and respect and mutual fidelity within marriage, which is and must always be the foundation of any discussion of prevention and support.
The Holy See does not accept so-called “harm reduction” efforts related to drug use. Such efforts do not respect the dignity of those who are suffering from drug addiction as they do not treat or cure the sick person, but instead falsely suggest that they cannot break free from the cycle of addiction. Such persons must be provided the necessary spiritual, psychological and familial support to break free from the addictive behavior in order to restore their dignity and encourage social inclusion.
During negotiations, the Holy See rejected the characterization of persons who engage in prostitution as “sex workers” as this can give the false impression that prostitution could somehow be a legitimate form of work. Prostitution cannot be separated from the issue of the status and dignity of persons; governments and society must not accept such a dehumanization and objectification of persons.
What is needed is a value-based approach to counter the disease of HIV and AIDS, an approach which provides the necessary care and moral support for those infected and which promotes living in conformity with the norms of the natural moral order, an approach which respects fully the inherent dignity of the human person.
Thank you, Mr President.