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Reform Jewish Leader Mourns AIDS Deaths and Calls for Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Prevention

Feldman: “The responsibility lies with each of us to protect and care for these victims and to ensure that ample funds and policies are crafted and implemented.”

Contact: Rachel Slomovitz or Allison Grossman, 202.387.2800 |

Washington, December 1, 2006 – In observance of World AIDS Day, Rabbi Marla Feldman, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Today, as our global community marks World AIDS Day, we remember the millions of people around the world who have lost their lives because of this tragic pandemic. This commemoration also provides a chance to examine the role that we play in helping treat those most threatened by HIV and AIDS and preventing the continuing spread of this disease.

Since the beginning of 2006, nearly 3 million people around the world have died as a result of the AIDS virus and there have been 4.3 million new infections, which amounts to one death or one new infection every five seconds. This year marks the 25th year since the first reported case of HIV, yet the global rates of education, prevention, and treatment are still far below tolerable standards. During the course of these 25 years, the face of HIV and AIDS has evolved. The susceptibility of women and youth, especially in developing nations, is disproportionately increasing and prevention strategies currently being implemented by the United States government around the world fail to adequately provide for the unique needs of this population.

This year, the featured theme of World AIDS Day is “Accountability.” It is time to hold ourselves, our communities, our countries, and our world accountable for implementing strategies that will save lives and, at the same time, change or desist from strategies that fail to do so. We call on the U.S. government to continue its strong support of international prevention and treatment efforts, as well as reassess those strategies in light of current targeted populations. Members of Congress can play a particularly constructive role by supporting the Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth (PATHWAY) Act, which recognizes the special risks and needs of women and youth in the fight against this deadly epidemic.

The HIV and AIDS epidemic is one of the most distressing and challenging humanitarian crises in the world today. The sheer numbers seem overwhelming. However, we must look past the incomprehensible statistics and long lists of facts and recognize the Divine image within the faces of the individual people infected and affected by this disease. The responsibility lies with each of us to protect and care for these victims and to ensure that ample funds and policies are crafted and implemented. We must demand that years of promises are finally fulfilled. Now is the time to stop the spread of this preventable and treatable disease.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the
Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.

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