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Reform Jewish Leader Comments on Levels of Aids Funding for FY 2003

Saperstein: "While President Bush's call for greater NIH funding is commendable, his $200 million request for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria is alarmingly low."

Contact: Alexis Rice or Erin Glazer 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, January 31, 2002 - This week President Bush announced the funding levels for domestic and global HIV/AIDS included in his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2003. Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following response.

The complete statement follows:

    We applaud President George Bush's proposed increase for the National Institutes of Health funding in his Fiscal Year 2003 budget. We share in his commitment to supporting domestic health programs and urge both houses of Congress to ensure the NIH funding increase is included in the final Health and Human Services appropriations bill.

    While President Bush's call for greater NIH funding is commendable, his $200 million request for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria is alarmingly low. Effective prevention and care programs require funding, yet the countries hit hardest by AIDS are among the poorest in the world. With staggering infection rates across the globe, AIDS is a disease that threatens to collapse entire nations if not immediately addressed. Health experts estimate that the cost to stop AIDS is approximately $10 billion per year. In this context, strong U.S. leadership is indisputable and the proposed U.S. contribution of $200 million is simply inadequate to address this urgent crisis.

    We cannot fall into the trap of pitting the needs of domestic HIV/AIDS programs against the needs of global efforts to eradicate this devastating disease. In the face of this human catastrophe, we reaffirm the commandments of bikur cholim (visiting the sick), pikuach nefesh (saving of lives), gemilut chasidim (deeds of loving-kindness), and tzedakah (economic justice) - these have been our values and commitments since Sinai and continue to guide us today. Where pain and suffering exist, we must provide comfort and solace. Where neglect and inequity prevail, we must bring compassion and justice. The NIH funding increase is a step in the right direction, but President Bush and Members of Congress must demonstrate the United States' commitment to fighting the AIDS pandemic on all fronts through an immediate and more significant contribution to the Global Fund.

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    The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis .




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