Thanks to Dr. José Maria Simon Castellvi, member of our Executive Committee, FIAMC has organized a presence in Barcelona during the days of the AIDS conference organized by the United Nations. In addition to a permanent stand, to interviews and to the spread of selected materials, a dedicated website has been created, with continuously updated materials and information.I warmly encourage you to visit it, at the following address: http://www.presston.com/press/aids2002-fiamc or directly from the home page of http://www.e-cristians.net
In addition, I would like to ask you to spread these news and to signal interesting experiences and personalities. Enclosed you will find a short document for Press Release that you're encouraged to use as much as possible. Many thanks for your cooperation.
Gian Luigi Gigli, President of FIAMC
FIAMC: A STATEMENT ON AIDS
The Executive Committee of FIAMC, which took place in Rome, on March 8-10, 2002, encourages the people attending the International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, July, 2002, to serve more and more those who suffer for the cause of HIV.
We think continuous research is essential to achieve the goals of Medicine in relation to AIDS.
We think governments and NGOs have to help providing cheaper treatments for patients, especially in Africa.
We think fighting drug traffic, drug use and exploitation of prostitution all over the world is essential.
We think that information and prevention are essential.
In this respect, campaigns based only upon condoms are dangereous, since they expose subjects to increased risk, by multiplying contacts with the false illusion of a complete protection.
In addition, these campaigns are not really respectful of human value and dignity. Especially young people need education and responsibility about sex and love. Delaying the beginning of sexual activity, abstinence until marriage, being faithful to marriage and monogamy have to be strongly promoted.
As Catholic doctors helping patients, particularly in poor countries, and men of culture responsible for leadership in public opinion, we think that Church teachings have to be better known all over the word.
The Associations members of FIAMC, active in 54 countries around the world, will continue promoting educational and medical programs to serve people affected by AIDS and those who are at risk.
released to Presston Communication Int.
on the occasion of the AIDS International Conference
(Barcelona, 7-12 July, 2002)
Why was FIAMC constituted?
1. FIAMC was constituted in Manila in 1961, in order to coordinate the Associations of Catholic Doctors operating all over the world.
- Among its aims, FIAMC has the responsibility of promoting the presence of the Associations of Catholic Doctors, serving the central dicasters of the Church in Rome, representing the issues and values of Catholic Doctors in the international forums, such as the United Nations and other international institutions.
- FIAMC is a member ex officio of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, and is recognized as an NGO by the UN ECOSOC in New York. It has permanent observers at WHO in Geneva.
- FIAMC members recognize themselves in the Promise of the Catholic Doctor and in the Prayer of the Catholic Doctor, written for them by the Holy Father John Paul II (both enclosed in this message).
- FIAMC members are involved in bioethic debate and FIAMC has created in Bombay (India) the FIAMC Biomedical Ethics Centre.
- FIAMC is also involved in international health cooperation in several developing countries.
Which has been the main challenge of the Federation? And its main success?
2. The main challenge for FIAMC and its member Associations has been to keep fidelity to the teachings of the Church. Particularly the acceptance of the Humanae Vitae created some internal debates in the United States, while the open defence of human life against abortion and euthanasia has been a source of difficulty for the secularized mentalities of our time. Catholic Doctors are nowadays discriminated in several countries for refusing to take part in abortion in the context of public health services.
How many members does FIAMC have? To how many countries do they belong?
3. The Associations of Catholic Doctors of 54 countries are members of FIAMC, for a total individual membership of approximately 30,000 active doctors. In addition, there are many more Catholic Doctors who take part in our initiatives, without formal membership. The distribution of the countries having an Association of Catholic Doctors is worldwide, from Argentina to Denmark, from Japan to Angola, from the USA to Lebanon. In Europe, Asia and Latin America FIAMC is organized in continental branches.
Do you have data on activities of FIAMC or its member Associations for the prevention and treatment of AIDS?
4. FIAMC was a partner of a project in favour of children affected by dermatologic complications of AIDS in Rumania, which offered surgical treatment and the training of local health personnel. In addition, at least two projects of Associations members of FIAMC can be mentioned: one in Uganda, and another one in the Philippines, both dealing with education of local populations for the prevention of the disease.
Is the medication against AIDS a luxury? How much does the treatment cost to a patient in a year?
5. The yearly cost of the treatment for a patient amounts to about 10-15,000 US dollars.
Which is the difference between rich and poor countries? Should the interest of pharmaceutical companies be protected or, on the other hand, should the right to medication be more important? Could you analyse the case of South Africa?
6. The main difference between rich and poor countries refers to the access to treatment. This is very discriminating for the developing countries. As a matter of fact, the cost of the drugs (10-15,000 US dollars per year) can not be afforded by patients in the third world. It is for this reason that South Africa, but also Brazil and Thailand, began to challenge the interests of pharmaceutical companies with reference to the patents of the drugs used in the therapy of AIDS.
If the defence of the patents' rights is understandable in the rich countries, the denial of access to therapy the poor countries is short-sighted, since even the simple coverage of the production costs should be seen by the pharmaceutical companies as an opportunity to extend their market, while fulfilling the ethical duty of promoting health in the third world (once a strict control against any form of illegal marketing towards the first world is guaranteed).
Instead, continuing a long standing tradition of commercial colonialism, pharmaceutical companies are using the population of the third world only as subjects for clinical trials of new drugs, without the ethical standards currently used for pharmaceutical research in the rich countries.
In fact, the companies tend to evaluate the effect of new drugs against placebo, rather than against known effective drugs, justifying this behaviour with the fact that placebo better reflects the actual standard treatment of the subjects involved in the trial (i.e., no treatment as the standard). Furthermore, even for the groups of patients treated with the new drugs, pharmaceutical companies tend to stop the supply of the drug at the end of the trial, against the usual attitude of continuing to give for free any effective new drug (compassionate use) at the end of a trial, the only attitude accepted in the good clinical practices (GCPs) of the Western countries.
In conclusion, there is not only an unethical anomaly of the market in the North-South relationships, but also an unacceptable two-level ethics of clinical research.
Which is the impact of the disease in the First World and in the Third World? Which is the country with a highest AIDS infection rate?
7. At the moment, in the first world AIDS is mainly a chronic problem, with some concern only for ethnic minorities and for drug addiction in the former Communist countries. In Africa instead, it is calculated that 15-20% of the general population is HIV seropositive, with peaks of even 40% in certain districts. In Africa, AIDS brought back the mortality rates and the life expectancy to the levels of the 1950ies, and it is calculated that at least 12 million children became orphans because of AIDS.
Which are the essential systems and conducts to prevent the contagion?
8. The control of the infection can be achieved only promoting monogamy, faithfulness inside the couple and abstinence among youth. Promiscuity and homosexual behaviours should be discouraged through education. In addition, it is necessary to improve the role of women against the plague of prostitution for social reasons and against a social subordination that makes them unable to refuse sex with their men who have at risk behaviours (for example, there are African women who are unable to say "no" to men coming back home from periods of work in other districts, during which they had promiscuous sexual behaviours).
Nowadays, in some areas like United Kingdom or Catalonia, it is being suggested to offer condoms in educational institutions to prevent AIDS. Is really the condom effective?
9. The accent on condoms distribution in the schools, in the name of AIDS prevention, is only a screen to mask the systematic undermining of family and sexual ethics. Italy is a demonstration that all the campaigns based on condoms have failed. As a matter of fact condoms, even if they reduce the risk of infection, do not cancel it (it is estimated that a 15% risk remains). However, the pretended sense of safety and the trivialization of sex implicit in these campaigns is only able to increase the spread of the infection, by multiplying the behaviours at risk. In addition, part of the youth tend not to use condoms, refusing to reduce sexual relationships to a health-hygienic problem. On the other side, the psychological consequences of the implicit distortion of sex and love for those using condoms are not yet completely understood. The real challenge for defeating AIDS is education and campaigns to promote "healthy" conducts should be encouraged by governments and by civil society.
Which is the role of the Church in AIDS prevention?
10. The Church has a very important role to play in the prevention of AIDS, proposing values and lifestyles, offering occasions of real education, paying attention to the marginalized strata of our society.
And in the treatment?
11. The Church has a fundamental role in the treatment of AIDS. Particularly in the third world, in many cases there are only the local Churches and the Missionary Congregations to offer real support to the populations in need.
As a president of FIAMC, what advice could you give to the AIDS Conference that will be held in Barcelona?
12. FIAMC and its members feel deeply committed to offer to colleagues and patients alternative scientific reflections and opportunities to help them discover the social, relational, psychological and cultural dimentions of the problem, helping them to refuse the materialistic reduction of AIDS to a problem of hygiene.
Gian Luigi Gigli, 49 years old, born in Rome, Neurologist, Director of the Department of Neurosciences, Udine General Hospital, Italy, Professor of Clinical Neurophysiology, University of Udine, Italy