Monday, January 30, 2006

AP: Bush panders to religious orgs with AIDS relief grants

This is disturbing on several levels--first, he's playing to his base with tax dollars; second, many of these groups have zero experience with HIV/AIDS; and third, they'll focus on abstinence education rather than care and treatment, most likely, which we're sure will work (right): "New groups are springing up to win a piece of President Bush's $15 billion AIDS program, with traditional players and religious groups joining forces to improve their chances in a competition that already has targeted nearly a quarter of its grants for faith-based organizations.

The administration is putting out a call for new community and church groups to get involved in HIV prevention and care in 15 target countries, most in sub-Saharan Africa. It is reserving $200 million specifically for groups with little or no government grant experience.

Groups that have deep local ties in the countries and focus on abstinence and fidelity — instead of just condoms — are faring well.

'The notion that because people have always received aid money that they'll get money needs to end,' Deputy Global AIDS coordinator Mark Dybul said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

'The only way to have sustainable programs is to have programs that are wholly owned in terms of management personnel at the local level.'

Those on the ground in Africa say Bush's 3-year-old effort is reshaping prevention efforts.

'You have community organizations, some that have operated for decades, asking for money and you have lots of new organizations popping up,' said Sarah Lucas, a development assistance expert who recently toured four countries on the U.S. target list for HIV/AIDS grants.

Award recipients so far include a Christian relief organization famous for its televised appeals to feed hungry children, a well-known Roman Catholic charity and a group run by the son of evangelist Billy Graham, according to the State Department.

The outreach to nontraditional AIDS players comes in the midst of a debate over how best to prevent the spread of HIV. The debate has activated groups on both ends of the political spectrum and created a vast competition for money.

Conservative Christian allies of the president are pressing the U.S. foreign aid agency to give fewer dollars to groups that distribute condoms or work with prostitutes.

Secular organizations in Africa are raising concerns that new money to groups without AIDS experience may dilute the impact of Bush's program."


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