PEPFAR-Rick Warren’s HIV/AIDS Africa Program

March 9, 2009

Rick Warren is a jerk.  I don’t care what Obama says about his good pastor friend, or how many excuses Melissa Etheridge makes on the man’s behalf.  Finding a reason to respect him can be a problem and it’s not because he’s narrow and bigoted against women and the LGBT communities. It’ s becasue those qualities in a person with that much power can be and have been lethal.

Much has been said about Warren’s HIV/AIDS work in Africa.  Obama praised the pastor to the rafters for his drug treatment efforts and outreach to the vast number of AIDS related orphans

But the faith-based solution naturally brought with it skewed policies that limited prevention options and led to what Jacobson calls the “profoundly ineffective” spending of AIDS money: with $20 billion spent on treatment over the past five years, but six new infections for every person treated. “No one doesn’t want people to have access to treatment,” she says. “But my argument is about the tradeoff. You can’t treat your way out of this epidemic.”

The new faith-based arm of the AIDS movement Warren had energized asked for, and got, a number of obstacles to prevention services: a prohibition on needle exchange programs for drug users; a ban family planning services in Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission clinics; and the anti-prostitution loyalty oath, which required all groups receiving PEPFAR funding, including those that work with sex workers, to condemn prostitution.

Warren’s assurances to the backers of World Net Daily, a conglomerate of wealthy, religious reactionaries intent on converting secular/governmental institutions into  those with a religious agenda

his number one priority in his AIDS work was the salvation of non-Christians.  Warren has made clear that his collaboration with non-evangelical AIDS activists wouldn’t lead him to compromise on his biblical convictions.

Efforts were made by progressives to change Warrens faith based focus to a science based criteria

The response of Warren and his fellow conservative PEPFAR supporters was cynical and swift. Staging a press conference on the day of the National Prayer Breakfast, four days before Lantos’s death, Warren joined a menagerie of stalwart anti-choice leaders, including Reps. Chris Smith, Marilyn Musgrave and Joe Pitts, and activists Wendy Wright, Chuck Colson and Day Gardner. The group declared that the Lantos revision would “pour billions into the hands of abortion providers with little or no regard for the pro-life, pro-family cultures of recipient countries,” strip abstinence programs of their funding and, by lifting the prostitution pledge, enable the sex trafficking of women. Lantos’s reauthorization bill lost every point on reproductive health, and PEPFAR was reauthorized in its flawed state.

It would be interesting to find out how this exceptionally flawed bill passed again with a majority of Democrats in the congress in 2008.

The HIV/AIDS programs instituted by Warren’s proteges included these:

offering faith-healing to disease-stricken congregants. Other PEPFAR grantees, as Jacobson’s colleagues in the global AIDS movement have witnessed, use their funds to promote fundamentalist interpretations of marital roles, advising women that if their husbands beat them, they should try harder to please them.

And this is the kicker:

Warren further entangles religion and treatment in his very own “Purpose-Driven Nation,” Rwanda. He offered to extend an undisclosed amount of aid to the country if it adopted his bestselling book as an action plan for the nation, using churches as centers for capacity building and American evangelical leaders as medical and development advisors to the Rwandan parliament.

Read the entire article here.

Obama has renewed PEPFAR with some of the same restrictions which existed in the Bush program, but Dr. Dybul, who headed the funds dispersals, and controversial in his own right resigned his post after Hillary Clinton was confirmed as Secretary of State.

Dr. Dybul’s departure was both celebrated and condemned.

Jodi Jacobson, a former head of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, which wants financing for all aspects of women’s reproductive health, including abortion, wrote a blog post titled “Dybul Out: Thank You Hillary!!!” It argued that he had worked too closely with the far right, and she accused him of lobbying to please the Roman Catholic Church by letting its relief groups refrain from distributing condoms.

Michael Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter and Washington Post columnist, shot back that “blogging extremists” like Ms. Jacobson had lied about Dr. Dybul’s record.

At the heart of the debate was the difficult bipartisan compromise behind Mr. Bush’s AIDS plan. It is the darling of two groups that normally oppose each other: foreign policy liberals who want to help Africa and evangelical Christians who support mission hospitals there.

Dr. Dybul was straddling some personal fences too: he was one of the Bush administration’s few openly gay officials, a doctor who had treated AIDS patients in San Francisco and Africa, and he had donated to Democratic causes.


Obama and States’ Rights-Marriage

January 24, 2009

States’ Rights. What are they? Constitutional Amendment X defines them as: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In our country, so divided by the issues of slavery and race, these words have been heavily freighted with history.

Back in the day, not so long ago, those words, uttered in the wrong company, were enough to start a bar fight. Those two words, spoken by a Lester Maddox or Bull Connor, were the equivalent of a codified rebel yell signifying a resistance to Federal dominance over state power and all that went with it: voting rights for African Americans, civil rights, secularism, public school integration. President Ronald Reagan made hay out of those words, condemning Big Government and taxation with a sub-textual message of lazy, black welfare queens living off the dole. Ronald Reagan, with his promise to keep hands off the the traditions and internal workings of the South, converted a reluctantly Democratic region into an enthusiastic and pivotal Republican stronghold. For African-Americans states’ rights meant no rights. It was the power of the federal government to broadly enforce equal accommodation, ensure voter rights and reject the concept of “separate but equal” that began the slow erosion of racial discrimination. See here.

Now it’s the Democrats’ chance to take a turn at bat creating a permanent majority party. And well, the states’ rights issue is back, but with a twist. This time it’s about marriage. The issue of marriage, who may and may not marry, was explicitly a state matter until the 1967 legal challenge of Loving v. Virginia. In this case, the nation’s interest in equal protection to marry triumphed over a State’s interest in upholding community or traditional views surrounding the marriage contract.

The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by a Republican congress and signed in 1996 by Bill Clinton usurped state authority again, this time permitting anti- gay marriage states to ignore legal gay marriages in other states, a clear reversal under the Loving v. Virginia rule. Presidential candidate Obama, self-described “fierce defender” of equal rights for gays, himself defined marriage as between one man and one woman and went a step farther with Rick Warren at Saddleback declaring, that for him, “God is in the mix”‘. Notwithstanding the vague and pandering nature of the comment, if “God is in the mix” then gay marriage is transformed from a secular, civil rights/equal rights issue into a moral one, determined by a majority of Christian “believers”. That’s exactly where Obama, the Democratic Party and many evangelicals want to keep it. If gay rights are not civil rights the states can deal with them as they choose, mostly in an uncivil manner, without the struggle over personal liberties and “lifestyles” which are the bugaboo of national presidential politics.

Many African-Americans would prefer that LGBT rights were de-coupled from the civil rights struggle. Many find gays tagging along under “their” banner on the continuum to equality to be “insulting”. Why? because, they say they believe being gay is a “choice”, not an immutable condition, and if they are fundamentalist Christians, which the majority are, an immoral choice. Yes, marriage is a choice but hey, so is practicing any of the multitude of religions in the country. And we all know choosing the wrong religion historically was, and in some places still is, a risky and punishable choice.
President Obama is pandering to this nonsense to win the humanity-challenged hearts of the religious right.
Before 1967 most white voters in the states upholding miscegenation laws would have argued that marriage is a choice and so is selecting the marriage partner. Anyone deciding to chance wedlock with a person of a different race, understood the risks and consequences, and deserved them. Many would have argued, too, that it was an immoral choice, based upon their interpretation of the Bible.
What many African-Americans and other evangelicals forget is that freedom to love whom one will and receive the same rewards and benefits of the loving legal contract is what America is all about. It’s equality stupid.