back abstinence-fidelity plan against deadly virus.
Bill Frist, the new Senate Majority
Leader, strode into Room S. 207 at the Capitol, where he was to
meet with roughly 30 Christian and African leaders on February
5. The topic was how to battle HIV/AIDS worldwide, and the
Tennessee Republican had come not to fault the efforts of
Christians but to praise them.
"In my eight years here, evangelicals have
now stepped up to the plate. They represent a great hope, and I
think there's a great awakening on this issue," said Frist,
according to meeting participants. "The ultimate cure cannot be
found without the church."
Frist's comments highlight the dramatic
change in evangelical responsiveness to the HIV/AIDS problem
overseas. Richard Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs
for the National Association of Evangelicals, recalls that ten
years ago he was one of two evangelicals to attend a White House
conference on HIV/AIDS.
Christians today, in contrast, are lobbying
for specific strategies to prevent infection and care for people
New money, new strategy
In his January 28 State of the Union address, President Bush
proposed that the federal government spend $15 billion over the
next five years to fight the disease in Africa and the
Caribbean. Of that amount, $10 billion would be new money, a
tripling of previous funding.
Twelve of the 14 countries in Bush's plan lie
in southern Africa, where tens of millions of families have been
hit by the virus. "We're very pleased by what the President has
said and is doing on this," said Steve Haas, vice president for
church relations with World Vision.
Decimated early on by HIV/AIDS, Uganda is
emerging as the Bush administration's model for fighting the
virus in southern Africa. First Lady Laura Bush welcomed Peter
Mugyenyi, director of the Joint Clinical Research Center in
Uganda, as her guest during the State of the Union. Uganda's
plan is called ABC, an acronym for Abstain, Be faithful, or use
a Condom. Unlike South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya,
Uganda has sought to prevent the disease mostly by encouraging
citizens to abstain from sexual activity or remain faithful to
Uganda has succeeded in taming the virus.
According to an academic study commissioned by the U.S. Agency
for International Development (USAID) and released last July,
the country of 24 million is "considered to be one of the
world's earliest and best success stories in overcoming HIV."
The share of Ugandans with the disease dropped from 15 percent
in 1991 to 5 percent in 2001, according to the Joint United
Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.
Still, 600,000 Ugandans had HIV/AIDS at the
end of 2001, according to USAID. Life expectancy for Ugandans
has dropped from 54 to 43 since 1989.
Religious groups are central to the plan's
overall success, the USAID report notes, because they "wield
enormous influence in Africa." It says that in 1991 Ugandan
Christians organized a workshop for bishops and other religious
leaders, and those leaders in turn began HIV/AIDS prevention and
care programs throughout the country.
Nevertheless, Uganda's approach is likely to attract criticism
from some conservatives for its position concerning condom use.
Condom usage increased substantially among men and women from
1995 to 2001 in Uganda, according to the USAID report.
The report also found that condoms played a
lesser role in reducing HIV/AIDS rates than did abstinence and
fidelity. Several Republicans and evangelical leaders seized on
this finding to promote the Uganda model. Pennsylvania
Republican Senator Rick Santorum said Uganda's approach is the
"That's why they call it ABC and not CBA,"
Santorum told Christianity Today.
But Shepherd Smith, president of the
Institute for Youth Development, a nonpartisan organization that
promotes a message of risk avoidance to young people, noted that
condoms have helped curb the spread of disease among prostitutes
and those who visit them. "So to say that condoms don't work is
not realistic in today's world," Smith said.
Fighting HIV/AIDS overseas doesn't carry the
complications that such efforts do domestically. Conservative
Jerry Thacker, who contracted the virus in 1986 from a blood
transfusion, withdrew his nomination to the Presidential
Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS on January 23, after being accused
of calling HIV/AIDS the "gay plague" and homosexuality a "deathstyle".
Thacker later told Christianity Today
that because homosexual activists have politicized the virus in
the United States, fighting the disease abroad is easier.
Action plan emerging
Smith traveled to four African nations last year as part of a
delegation with Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy
Thompson. Jay Lefkowitz, deputy assistant to President Bush for
domestic policy, said that trip helped form a consensus that
American money could help save many lives at risk from HIV/AIDS,
malaria, tuberculosis, and starvation.
Last year Samaritan's Purse held a
"Prescription for Hope" conference in Washington, D.C. Frist was
one of the speakers during the gathering of 900 African,
religious, and Bush administration officials. SP organized a
similar meeting in Kampala in February.
As of early March, the Bush administration
had not released the full details of its HIV/AIDS spending plan.
An early outline of the plan does not call for major spending
until the start of fiscal 2004 this October.
The additional spending may go further
because the cost of fighting HIV/AIDS is less than it was a
decade ago. The price of antiretroviral drugs has plunged from
thousands of dollars a year to $300 annually. In addition, the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a rapid HIV
test by OraSure Technologies Inc.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), who is chairman
of the HIV/AIDS caucus in the House, welcomed the proposed
increase in spending. But he questioned whether the Bush
administration will lobby for it vigorously. "I'm afraid we've
got such a terrible problem with the war in Iraq that there
won't be any money left," he said. "I hope I'm wrong. It's such
a disaster in Africa."
2003 Christianity Today.
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Christianity Today posted an exclusive interview with
Jerry Thacker: ">Politics
Muddies Fight Against AIDS | The politics of
homosexuality has made it easier to battle the disease in
foreign countries than domestically, says a former nominee to
the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS."
Today articles on AIDS in Africa include:
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. (Feb. 21, 2003)
Killing a Pandemic
| The church may be best equipped to deal HIV/AIDS a crippling
blow. (Nov. 18, 2002)
U.S. Blacks Preach Abstinence
Gospel | Mission workers testify that Christ
helps control sexual urges. (March 27, 2002)
Mercy Impaired |
Let's shock the world by reversing our apathy toward African
sufferers. (September 27, 2001)
Kenyan President Suggests
Hanging for 'Knowingly' Infecting Others with AIDS
| Church organizations criticize use of capital punishment as
solution to epidemic. (July 19, 2001)
Dying Alone |
Baptist women seek out and care for ashamed, abandoned AIDS
patients. (June 15, 2001)
Few to Receive Generic AIDS
Medicines | Pharmaceutical companies drop suit
against South Africa, but problems remain. (May 18, 2001)
Zambia's Churches Win Fight
Against Anti-AIDS Ads | Church leaders are
concerned that condom promotion encourages promiscuity. (Jan.
Mandela, De Klerk, and Tutu Join
to Fight AIDS | South Africa's men of peace call
for end of silence and stigmatization. (Dec. 14, 2000)
Speaking with Action Against
AIDS | A report from the Thirteenth International
AIDS Conference. (July 19, 2000)
'Have We Become Too Busy With
Death?' | As 4,900 people die each day from AIDS,
African Christians are faced with the question. (Feb. 4, 2000)
'Sexual Revolution' Speeds
Spread of HIV Among Africans | An interview with
World Relief's Debbie Dortzbach. (Feb. 4, 2000)
Books & Culture Corner: An Open
Letter to the U. S. Black Religious,
Intellectual, and Political Leadership Regarding AIDS and the
Sexual Holocaust in Africa (Jan. 24, 2000)
Africa: Fidelity Urged to Fight
AIDS (July 12, 1999)
Global Death Rates May Skyrocket
(May 24, 1999)
I Am the Father of an AIDS
Orphan (Nov. 17, 1997)