Evangelical Christians Lobby for Full Funding of Global AIDS Bill
About 250 evangelical Christian ministers, missionaries and donors last week came to Washington, D.C., for two days of meetings on HIV/AIDS and to lobby Congress to fully fund the global AIDS bill, the Washington Post reports. The effort was organized by the Christian relief group World Vision with help from the National Association of Evangelicals and the relief group MAP International. About 90 of the participants divided into groups on Friday to visit about 20 lawmakers from both parties and made a "primary plea" for Congress to appropriate the full $15 billion authorized in the legislation, according to the Post (Cooperman, Washington Post, 6/13). President Bush last month signed into law an international HIV/AIDS bill (HR 1298) that authorizes $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. Congress must still approve the spending levels defined in the bill through the appropriations process. While the bill calls for $3 billion a year for five years, the Bush administration in its fiscal year 2004 budget proposal only recommended $1.7 billion for the initiative (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/10). The group also supports provisions in the measure that would allocate one-third of the bill's prevention funds to abstinence programs. However, World Vision lobbyist Robert Zachritz said that the provision "was not the focus" of last week's lobbying efforts because it is already in the law and because some of the groups -- including World Vision -- support condom distribution to high-risk populations, according to the Post. World Vision President Richard Stearns explained the evangelical groups' late arrival to the fight against HIV/AIDS, saying, "We realized that all the work we'd been doing to provide education, clean water, health care and food in Africa was like building sandcastles on a beach when there's a tidal wave offshore" (Washington Post, 6/13).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.