A number of Christian voices are calling for expanded U.S. funding next year for the Global AIDS Initiative.
In his 2003 State of the Union address President George W. Bush announced the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a five-year, $15 billion AIDS initiative designed to turn the tide in the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. These funds have been committed to assist many of the African and Caribbean countries hardest hit by the disease and least equipped to fight it, helping them to successfully combat HIV/AIDS by treating millions of HIV-infected people, caring for HIV-infected people and for AIDS orphans, and avoiding millions of new infections through prevention programs.
But while many Evangelical Christian leaders applaud Bush's commitment of U.S. resources to the AIDS battle, some are saying that $3.6 billion will be required next year alone. Leaders of Compassion International , World Vision, and the National Association of Evangelicals held a news conference last week in which they asserted the heavy need for increased funding and rejected arguments by some administration officials that 3.6 billion dollars cannot be spent effectively over the next year.
Some officials suggested that many nations in Africa lack an organized health system and sufficient resources to allow for the efficient distribution of AIDS medication to those in need. The implication was that the funds could not be usefully spent at the present time under these circumstances.
But, World Vision's director of public policy, Serge Duss, feels that argument is illogical and insists that the full amount is needed in next year's budget to fight AIDS.
"We reject the argument that less money is needed now because the necessary capacity and health infrastructure does not exist in African countries to effectively spend the money," Duss says. "How will capacity and infrastructure improve without up-front investment?"
However, Christian author Bruce Wilkinson says the amount of money is not nearly as important as how that money is used. The author of the best-selling book The Prayer of Jabez has moved to Africa to help victims of AIDS and hunger. He is convinced that current funding from the Bush administration should be sufficient to defeat the disease if only it is spent on programs that promote abstinence and marital fidelity.
"I personally believe we have all the money we need to stop AIDS. I believe $15 billion is all we need," Wilkinson says. "If we applied those methods which are being used to turn things around in Uganda to the rest of Africa, we would not even use the $15 billion."
Wilkinson refers to the notable success the nation of Uganda has had by employing what is called the A-B-C strategy -- a multi-sector approach to prevention involving faith-based and other organizations and emphasizing abstinence, being faithful in marriage, and using condoms. Uganda has demonstrated a clear reduction in HIV/AIDS incidence since it's government initiated the A-B-C approach.
Wilkinson is urging other concerned American Christians to join in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Compassion International (http://www.compassion.com)
World Vision (http://www.worldvision.org)
National Association of Evangelicals (http://www.nae.net)
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