Reform Jewish Movement Applauds Clinton's New Initiative to Curb the Spread of AIDS
"In the face of HIV/AIDS, we reaffirm our traditional and profound obligation of pikuach nefesh, the saving of lives"
WASHINGTON, December 2, 1998 - Reacting to this week's announcement of a new initiative by the Clinton Administration to channel more resources to developing nations who face the greatest threat of HIV/AIDS and to provide greater funding for vaccine research, Mark J. Pelavin, assistant director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
"We welcome the decision by President Clinton and his administration to place the fight against the spread of AIDS on the forefront our national agenda. The President's commitment to allocate federal resources to work with developing nations where HIV/AIDS is spreading at alarming rates and to increase funding for vaccine research is the appropriate response to this devastating epidemic. We applaud the President's commitment to fight this disease, and not to castigate those who are afflicted.
Our tradition teaches that we are created in God's image, thus we must strive to act as God would act. The Talmud teaches that just as God visits the sick, so must we. In the face of HIV/AIDS, we reaffirm our traditional and profound obligation of pikuach nefesh, the saving of lives.
In the developing world, the scope of HIV/AIDS is devastating: in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly one-fourth of the adult population is HIV-positive and some 30 percent of infants born to HIV-positive mothers are born with the virus. Perhaps most disturbing is the predicted 40 million children worldwide who will be orphaned by the year 2010 as their parents die from AIDS.
In addition to the Administration's new initiative, Congress also needs to do its part. During the budget negotiations for FY1999, congressional leadership removed all funding for the U.N. Population Fund, which is the primary source for family planning information and resources. We cannot afford to let the important debate about abortion to cloud the severity of the AIDS epidemic and prevent us from helping those in need.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.