Leaders of Christian organizations that fight AIDS in Africa are expressing fears that the U.S. government is slowing its fight against the disease. The Obama administration is shifting its global health emphasis from putting more people on AIDS drugs to combating less-costly diseases.
"There seems to be an AIDS funding fatigue developing on many levels," said Nelis du Toit, director of the Christian AIDS Bureau for Southern Africa.
The 2010 federal budget allocates $5.7 billion for programs like the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. That represents a 3.6 percent, or $200 million, increase over 2009.
"Technically, it is not flatlining, but given the very considerable growth over the past five years, the AIDS advocates are considering this flatlining," said Ray Martin, executive director of Christian Connections for International Health.
The World Health Organization estimates that faith-based organizations deliver 30 to 70 percent of health care in developing countries. They account for roughly a quarter of groups that have received PEPFAR grants.
"If antiretroviral medicines become unavailable due to funding shortfalls, then the children who depend on them will die. It is that simple," said immunologist Scott Todd, senior ministry adviser at Compassion International. (The ministry doesn't accept federal grants but supports 1,600 HIV-positive children who benefit from PEPFAR.) "The U.S. government acted honorably and compassionately through PEPFAR, and many lives have been saved. But in saving them, we took up a moral obligation not to end their lives when the wind changes in Washington."
Kay Warren, founder of the HIV/AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, is urging Obama and Congress to keep funding increases high. But she said churches "are in this for the long haul," regardless of the federal budget. "Our responsibility to the sick isn't tied to congressional funding."
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Christianity Today has more coverage of HIV/AIDS, including:
Talk and Walk | Getting our body in sync with our message. By Kay Warren (June 6, 2008)
Bono's American Prayer | The world's biggest rock star tours the heartland, talking more openly about his faith as he recruits Christians in the fight against AIDS in Africa. (March 1, 2003)
Killing a Pandemic | The church may be best equipped to deal HIV/AIDS a crippling blow. A Christianity Today editorial (June 29, 2002)
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