The Reauthorization of PEPFAR - the President's Emergency
Plan for AIDS Relief:
Legislation to Combat Global AIDS Pandemic compromised by
July 16, 2008
On July 16, the Senate voted to re-authorize PEPFAR [S. 2731],
legislation badly needed to combat global AIDS, TB and malaria.
Unfortunately, the Act funds flawed prevention policies including
directives for abstinence and be-faithful programs, and fails
to integrate HIV prevention services into family planning
services. In their version of this legislation, H.R. 5501,
the House of Representatives also includes ideological constraints
on the provision of care. Specifically, the House requires
family planning clinics to abide by the global gag rule and
not provide or refer for abortions to be eligible for HIV
Not only do these restrictions curtail religious liberty
by privileging a single religious view over the beliefs of
many, they also undermine our commitment to effectively address
these deadly diseases. As a result, women and girls will die
and families will be broken.
AIDS has orphaned more than eleven million children in sub-saharan
Africa. In these African nations, women and girls make up
60 percent of all HIV infections and 76 percent of infections
among individuals aged 15 to 24. Women and girls are biologically,
socially, and economically more vulnerable to HIV infection
than their male peers. Family planning organizations are the
source of care for women and youth – the two populations
at greatest risk of new infection. The failure of Congress
to support and expand the work of these clinics, which are
on the front lines in providing sexual health services, jeopardizes
the overall health and well-being of women.
As people of faith and conscience, we must hold Congress
accountable for accommodating specific religious views over
sound health policy that saves lives.
In 2003, the United States launched the largest investment
ever made by any nation to combat a single disease-the U.S.
President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
PEPFAR has successfully brought AIDS treatment, care and HIV
prevention to millions of people who would have otherwise
On April 2, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to re-authorize PEPFAR [H.R. 5501] and dramatically expand the program for AIDS, TB and malaria by tripling funding to $50 billion over the next five years. At the same time, it continues ideological restrictions on HIV prevention policies. While the increased funding is a tremendous step forward, RCRC and other religious organizations are concerned that these restrictions will prevent the funds from effectively containing the spread of HIV.
In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls make up 60 percent of all HIV infections and 76 percent of infections among individuals aged 15 to 24. Women and girls are biologically, socially, and economically more vulnerable to HIV infection than their male peers. RCRC is pressing for a comprehensive prevention strategy that addresses the risk factors unique to this population and allows for on-the-ground flexibility in providing effective programs. Family planning organizations are the source of care for women and youth – the two populations at greatest risk of new infection. Congress must support and expand the work of these family planning clinics in providing HIV services unhampered by ideological restrictions.
Specifically, we urge the Senate to include in its reauthorization of PEPFAR linkages between HIV prevention and basic family planning services without language restricting the participation of family planning organizations not compliant with the global gag rule.
Our faith traditions compel us to ensure that U.S. policies fulfill our responsibility to effectively address the global AIDS pandemic. To do this, we must provide our fellow world citizens with the knowledge and tools necessary to protect themselves – uncensored by parochial beliefs.
It is our moral duty to do nothing less. Please take action NOW.
April 21, 2008
Religious Responses to the Pandemic
As the global HIV/AIDS pandemic enters its third decade,
mainstream religions are responding with compassion and care.
Some have had to overcome traditional taboos about sexuality,
homosexuality, non-marital sex, and drug abuse to address
HIV/AIDS realistically and without judgment. Over time, the
harsh claims that AIDS is a punishment have given way to a
deeper understanding of the factors in its spread.
In addition to challenging and changing attitudes about AIDS, denominations work every day to provide health care and services to people with AIDS and their families and millions of children orphaned by the epidemic. Denominations support increased government funding for AIDS research and care in the U.S. and globally and have been outspoken in calling for increased focus on minority communities in the U.S. that have been particularly hard-hit by the epidemic.
The Black Church's Role in HIV Prevention
Resources related to HIV and AIDS, from the Ecumenical Advocacy
Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office World AIDS Day resource packet
United Church of Christ Ministries
Presbyterian Church (USA) International AIDS Ministries
PC (USA) AIDS Worship Materials
Episcopal Church Peace Ministries - HIV / AIDS
United Methodist Church
UMC Worship Services
Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism
Reform Judaism Sermon Starters
Religious denominations in the United States have supported
increased government funding for AIDS research and care in
the U.S. and globally and have been outspoken in calling for
increased focus on minority communities in the U.S. that have
been particularly hard-hit by the epidemic.
The Episcopal Church, in a recent resolution,
asked “the U.S. government and international agencies
to dramatically increase efforts to address this crisis through
funding education and awareness programs about the spread
of AIDS in developing countries, programs to assist families
affected by AIDS, especially the millions of orphaned children,
and efforts to make affordable medicines available to those
infected.” The Standing Committee on HIV/AIDS recently
for called for a concerted effort to address HIV/AIDS in minority
communities and to “speak honestly, moving beyond discomfort
about sex, drug abuse and HIV/AIDS.”
The Presbyterian Church (USA) works with
partner organizations in more than 90 countries to offer care
for those living with AIDS and AIDS orphans. In 1988, the
General Assembly “urged the church to overcome attitudinal
and behavioral barriers of race, social class and sexual orientation
that prevent acceptance and a positive ministry” and
voiced support for policies to protect the human and civil
rights of people with AIDS. The church called for adequate
numbers of drug treatment programs to care for drug-addicted
persons and prevent the spread of HIV.
The Union for Reform Judaism was one of
the first religious groups to address AIDS formally, issuing
a summons to action in 1985 calling for increased resources
for AIDS prevention, treatment and education and an end to
AIDS-related discrimination. Reform Judaism also established
a national task force on AIDS and supported the distribution
of condoms and clean needles to intravenous drug users. In
1994, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism adopted
a resolution calling on its affiliated congregation to institute
age-appropriate HIV prevention programs.
The United Church of Christ (UCC) has declared
the AIDS pandemic “an international disaster of catastrophic
proportions” and launched a special appeal to fund its
AIDS ministries around the world. The UCC also called for
debt relief for African nations whose economies are overburdened
by foreign debt and AIDS and for international trade regulations
that help reduce the prohibitively high cost and increase
the availability of HIV/AIDS treatment drugs.”
The United Methodist Church has been active
in fighting the AIDS epidemic since the 1980s. Its HIV/AIDS
Ministries Network, which works in the U.S. and globally,
recently secured a federal grant for research papers on prevention
and education programs in African American, Hispanic American
and Native American congregations. In 1988, in response to
vindictive statements blaming the epidemic on homosexuality,
the Council of Bishops issued a statement affirming that “we
in the religious community are certain that it is not sent
as a curse from God upon those whose lifestyle is called into
question.” The statement commends monogamy within marriage
as the behavior expected for the faithful and the best way
to prevent the spread of the disease, but recommends the use
of condoms “for those who choose other than this standard.”
March 28, 2008