Resolution Adopted by the CCAR
Adopted by the 115th Annual Convention
of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
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 Central Conference of American Rabbis resolves to: