Thursday, January 22, 2009

Is Rick Warren making HIV/AIDs, and Africa, policy, in the Obama Administration?

Evangelical, gay intolerant, Reverend Rick Warren,
campaigns for "abstinence only" HIV infection
"prevention," most of all in Africa, through PEPFAR,
the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

by Ann Garrison

When Barack Obama invited LGBTIQ intolerant evangelical preacher Rick Warren to give the "invocation," meaning the opening prayers, at his inauguration, on January 20, 2009, the LGBTIQ community and their supporters reacted with alarm.  Reverend Rick Warren is Pastor of the Saddleback Church, in Orange County, in the State of California, where he was a fervent and effective campaigner for Proposition 8, the referendum which banned same sex marriage, and thus overturned the California State Supreme Court's earlier decision, on May 16, 2008, which had struck down an earlier same sex marriage ban.

Many Obama supporters responded that there was nothing to worry about because Reverend Rick Warren would simply say the opening prayers at the inauguration, but would not make policy thereafter.

However, Reverend Rick Warren is already an international power broker, here and in Africa. He lobbied George Bush heavily for the passage of PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and for PEPFAR's notorious "abstinence only" HIV AIDS "prevention" strategies.   
Five years after the passage of PEPFAR, in 2003, its consequence has been the spread of HIV, most of all in Africa, and unprecedented, long-term African drug dependence, on anti-retroviral drugs manufactured in the U.S.

On World AIDS Day in 2006, Barack Obama appeared at Reverend Rick Warren's Saddleback Church and stated that he unequivocally disagreed with Rick Warren's abstiinence-only, until heterosexual married monogamy HIV prevention strategy.

Having said that, I also believe that we cannot ignore that abstinence and fidelity may too often be the ideal and not the reality - that we are dealing with flesh and blood men and women and not abstractions - and that if condoms and potentially microbicides can prevent millions of deaths, they should be made more widely available.
I know that there are those who, out of sincere religious conviction, oppose such measures. And with these folks, I must respectfully but unequivocally disagree. I do not accept the notion that those who make mistakes in their lives should be given an effective death sentence.
Nor am I willing to stand by and allow those who are entirely innocent - wives who, because of the culture they live in, often have no power to refuse sex with their husbands, or children who are born with the infection as a consequence of their parent's behavior -suffer when condoms or other measures would have kept them from harm.
--Barack Obama, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California, World AIDS Day, 01.01.2006

Nevertheless, on January 12, 2009, Barack Obama alarmed responsible reproductive health professionals by reappointing George Bush's Ambassador Mark Dybul, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, who is a close ally of Reverend Rick Warren's, and who has consistently advanced and defended Warren's abstinence-only HIV/AIDS agenda, as the head of PEPFAR
, which is, most of all, an African AIDS program.  

Ambassador Mark Dybul, Rick Warren's openly gay, and, gay married, ally

Mark Dybul is not only openly gay, but also, essentially, married, to his gay life partner, Jason Claire. Despite George Bush's famously anti-LGBTIQ rights, and anti-gay marriage stance, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice swore Dybul in as Global AIDS Coordinator, an Ambassador level position, and, at the ceremony, to Claire's mother as Mark Dybul's "mother-in-law." Needless to say, this upset many on the religious right. Reverend Rick Warren's alliance with Mark Dybul is strange indeed, but, much of the concern about Mark Dybul's reappointment as U.S. Global AIDS coordinator is concern about his alliance with Rick Warren in PEPFAR's abstinence only restrictions.

Indeed, this alliance suggests that not all is as it seems, with regard to Barack Obama, Rick Warren, Mark Dybul, and PEPFAR, in Africa, and, PEPFAR, which is, most of all a U.S. AIDS project in Africa, at work in 13 African "focus countries," Botswana, Cote d'Ivore, Ethipioa, Guyana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, and in Haiti and Vietnam.

All of PEPFAR's "focus countries," including not only these African nations, but also Haiti and Vietnam, are nations that the U.S. State Department, and military, have been unusually, even for the U.S., determined to control.

The U.S. uses PEPFAR "focus country" Rwanda, as Britain uses "focus country" Uganda, to control the mineral wealth of D.R. Congo.

And, Reverend Rick Warren, who sits on the U.S. Council of Foreign Relations, and attends the World Economic Forum, in Davos Switzerland, has not only advanced his abstinence-only HIV/AIDS agenda, through PEPFAR, but has also turned Rwanda and Uganda into his first two "purpose-driven nations," in accordance with his best-selling evangelical manual, "The Purpose-Driven Life."

However, no matter what anyone might conclude about the relationship between Barack Obama, Rick Warren, Mark Dybul, PEPFAR, and U.S. foreign policy in PEPFAR "focus countries," most of all in Africa, responsible HIV/AIDS care and treatment professionals and organizations, have called upon Barack Obama to "Ditch Dybul, the abstinence-only AIDS campaigner" in accordance with the convictions he expressed, on World AIDS Day, 2006, in Reverend Rick Warren's own Saddleback Church.

Pamela Merritt, writing in RH (Reproductive Health) Reality Check, explains the urgency of ditching Dybul and appointing someone who "gets it," about the spread, and prevention of HIV infection, and asks the rest of us to sign an electronic petition calling for a new U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator.

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