Boston Globe Examines Influence Religious Conservatives Might Have on USAID, PEPFAR Grants
The Boston Globe on Monday as part of a series examined the amount of influence religious conservatives might have on grants administered by USAID, including HIV prevention grants for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Andrew Natsios, former USAID administrator, and agency Global Health Director Kent Hill have said that all groups applying for grants are evenly treated in the funding decision process. However, some groups who have lost funding under the Bush administration say the "huge abstinence budget has been used as a political payout to faith-based supporters of administration policies," according to the Globe (Kranish, Boston Globe, 10/9). By law, at least one-third of HIV prevention funds that countries receive through PEPFAR -- a $15 billion, five-year program -- must be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/8). Anne Peterson, former global health director of USAID, resigned for personal reasons shortly after the conservative group Focus on the Family conducted a briefing critical of her support for condom access, the Globe reports. "I had not expected to have that from the Christian community," Peterson said, adding, "This is a core good thing to do, help people to stay healthy. It was disconcerting to find that when money is on the table everybody fights harder to get the piece of it." According to the Globe, "the pressure on USAID from Christian groups" has also "raised persistent questions about whether Jewish and Muslim organizations are being overshadowed." A Globe survey of primary contractors and grantees in development finds that 98.3% of funds granted to faith-based groups went to organizations led by Christians. Ambassador Mark Dybul, who oversees PEPFAR, said all funding decisions are merit-based, adding, "Our goal is not the recruitment of faith-based organizations ... (but) to me, as the coordinator, you cannot achieve those goals without faith- and community-based organizations" (Boston Globe, 10/9).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.