December 1, 2006
Goodwill to all
Except for ungodly AIDS victims, naturally:
Some leading Christian conservatives, angry over the Global Fund to Fight AIDS’s promotion of condoms and its perceived lack of support for faith-based programs, are pushing Congress to cut US support for the AIDS initiative, which was initiated by President Bush in a Rose Garden ceremony five years ago with a $200 million commitment.
The fund—whose full name is the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria—has become one of the pillars of the international effort to fight infectious diseases, growing into a $6.6 billion organization that supports programs in 136 countries.
It is a primary vehicle for the AIDS-fighting efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The only larger HIV and AIDS program in the world is the president’s $15 billion, five-year plan.
But the Global Fund, which works closely with foreign governments, is not nearly as popular among conservative Christians in the United States. Some take issue with the Global Fund’s policies, which include buying clean needles for drug users, and many are furious that just 6 percent of its program dollars goes to faith-based groups.
“There’s cancer in the fund,” said Peter L. Brandt, senior director of government and public policy at the Christian group Focus on the Family. “It does such an unbelievable job in discriminating against faith-based organizations.”
Fund officials, worried about the religious right’s influence in Congress, are pledging to try to give more money to religious charities. The executive director of the fund, Richard G.A. Feachem , yesterday told 2,000 people at an AIDS conference organized by the influential Saddleback Church in Lake Forest that the battle against the virus “will only succeed if the great faiths of the world become totally mobilized.”
Really? Given that the “great faith” here in the US seems to believe that abstinence is the answer, exactly how will that help the battle against AIDS? Still, maybe if I’d been surrounded by 2,000 Christian crazies, I’d have given the same answer.
Nonetheless, Brandt said he wants the government to eliminate all spending on the Global Fund’s HIV programs because it is not providing sufficient money to faith groups and has given little support to abstinence messages. Brandt said the government could continue to support the fund’s tuberculosis and malaria programs.
How compassionately Christian. Puts Ray Ruddy to shame:
Some other Christian activists, such as Raymond Ruddy , president of the Gerard Health Foundation in South Natick, which gives $2 million annually to anti-abortion and abstinence programs worldwide, want all US money cut from the fund.
… Christoph Benn , director of external relations for the Global Fund, said 6% of the fund’s principal recipients are religious groups, but money also flows to faith-
based subcontractors, although the organization does not track the spending.
… Benn objected to several other allegations US Christians made , saying that many programs support abstinence-only messages for young people and also emphasize marital fidelity.
… Some Christians’ objections also are personal. A letter written earlier this year to members of Congress and signed by Ruddy and Focus on the Family decried the election of Asia Russell , a longtime AIDS activist, to the fund’s board.
“She served as spokeswoman for the group who tried to strip naked at the [2004 Republican National] Convention as a protest against Bush administration policies,” the letter said, adding, “The fact that the fund would elect a woman with zero qualifications to its board sends a clear message that this is not a serious healthcare organization but, rather, a group dedicated to pursuing a social agenda opposed to US policy.”
Bernard Rivers , editor of the Global Fund Observer , an independent newsletter that reports on the fund, defended Russell’s election, calling her “phenomenally talented and hard - working.”
Russell said in an interview that “my qualifications are not the issue. The issue is the extreme, radical religious right attacking the Global Fund and its supporters because the fund is driven by what countries actually want and doesn’t fund unscientifically and technically unsound approaches.” She was referring to abstinence-only programs.
Bush, of course, is already on the abstinence/fidelity bandwagon.
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