Inexperienced religious groups receive AIDS funding--but don't worry, it's not politically motivated

Religious groups getting more AIDS funding,
Bush administration earmarked $200 million for less-experienced groups.

Aargh.

Franklin Graham just got federal AIDS money. His group, Samaritan's purse, has a mission described as "meeting critical needs of victims of war, poverty, famine, disease and natural disaster while sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ." This is the same Franklin Graham who has said about Islam,

The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.

Catholic Relief Services, too, have received money, even though they will not "promote, purchase or distribute" condoms. (At least they claim to offer "complete and correct information about condoms"--better than Catholic bishops who claim that condoms don't work, or are laced with HIV, I guess).

They also have a nice double-standard. Anyone promoting condoms must also provide information on abstinence and fidelity, according to the article, but those preaching abstinence don't have to provide condoms. Nice--since we know how well the abstinence-only message goes over. Additionally, the abstinence-only message might have an unintended effect in some African countries: pressuring girls to get married younger, prior to finishing their education. Just what we want to promote: let's keep 'em barefoot and pregnant, rather than educated and empowered regarding their own sexuality. Grrreeaaat.

And that ain't all.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, said that on a tour of Uganda in January he saw pro-abstinence rallies and skits praising Bush, and U.S.-supported groups conducting house-to-house testing, care and counseling.

"The good news about the faith-based groups is not only the passion they bring to the work, but it is the moral authority and the extended numbers of volunteers they can mobilize to get the word out," Smith said.

Again, great. Sure, let's go and tell them what horrible sinners they are, and how they need redemption--not condoms. I'm not denying that there are some excellent religious groups who do good work, but from missionaries I've spoken with and reading I've done, it sure doesn't seem like they're respectful of the native culture--that it's more of a conversion mission than a humanitarian one.

This is exemplified by the next statement in the article:

But Smith believes the administration is wrongly supporting some nonprofit groups. He and several other congressional conservatives wrote to Bush and the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, contending that several large grant recipients were pro-prostitution, pro-abortion and not committed enough to abstinence priorities.

The letters followed a briefing last year by Focus on the Family, run by Christian commentator James Dobson. The group's sexual health analyst, Linda Klepacki, said even some religious groups emphasize condoms over abstinence.

See, the exact same reason Klepacki dislikes them is the reason I have, well, faith that there are some religious groups out there doing the right thing--the pragmatic thing, even if it may go against some of their own personal moral beliefs.

Anything that bears the hallmark of FoF automatically raises my ire as well.

The article ends with claims that the distribution of AIDS dollars isn't politically motivated. I find that difficult to swallow. I agree with the emphasis on abstinence--yes, that's the only surefire way to prevent not only most STDs, but also pregnancy. But I'm also not stupid. Abstinence isn't a popular message, and for many, it's not a realistic one. Fidelity and condoms are more pragmatic--and they work. Foreign aid shouldn't be about imposing the morality of assorted special-interest groups onto disadvantaged people, but rather, offering them assistance that has been shown to be effective.

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This behavior is such total BS. One more reason to work for the overthrow of the Bush regime. And for those of you with Homeland Security reading this... you know who you are... I am calling for a peaceful democratic change, where the knuckleheads are voted out, and good people voted in.

Abstinence education is actually a very bad thing for the African AIDS crisis. Women can practice abstinence and monogomy (once they are married), but they still contract AIDS from their husbands who visit prostitutes when they work away from home.

With HIV infections as high as 50%, I don't think anyone should be relying on the "trust your partner" method.

Aargh!!!

By Dean Morrison (not verified) on 02 Feb 2006 #permalink

Reed--that's a very good point, and a tough one to solve. Educating more prostitutes to demand condom use (and supplying them with plenty) is one way that can be tackled, but due to the culture in many of these countries, many of the wives won't have that same luxury. That's where education and more empowerment for women comes into play--which seems to be degrading under some of these programs. Terrible.