Thursday, January 22, 2009

Victory for Africa; Obama Dumps Ambassador Mark Dybul, Bush's U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

Mark Dybul, George Bush's U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, 
reappointed by Barack Obama on 01/09/2009, un-reappointed
by Barack Obama on 01/21/2009.

I spent several hours today writing a Colored Opinions blog post titled, "Is Rick Warren making AIDS, and Africa, policy, in the Obama Administration?" with regard to Obama's reappointment of Rick Warren ally, Ambassador Mark Dybul.

Several hours later I picked up the stellar news that Obama "ditched Dybul" before a petition calling on him to do so, circulated by RHRealityCheck.org , had gathered more than 65 of its 5,000 signature goal.  

The International Women’s Health Coalition and the Sexuality Information & Education Council of the United States, which, according to the Washington Blade, advocates, among other things, for gay-sensitive sex education, were pressuring Obama about this too, as was the entire responsible reproductive health and rights community.

This is a victory, albeit tentative, not only for reproductive health and rights, but also for Africa.  Mark Dybul has been the head of PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and, in that role, he has advanced "abstinence only" HIV infection prevention, which has actually spread HIV infection in Africa, along with the evangelical and moral agenda of Reverend Rick Warren, cause for great controversy and consternation after Barack Obama invited him to give the opening prayers at his inauguration.  

In defense of his invitation to Rick Warren, Obama had alarmed many even further by saying
that Rick Warren's benevolence was evidenced by his HIV/AIDS work in Africa.  Nevertheless, it looks as though Barack Obama may prove true to the unequivocal disagreement with Reverend Rick Warren, re HIV prevention and education, that he expressed in Warren's own Saddleback Church, on World AIDS Day, in 2006:

. . . 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



Who will replace Mark Dybul?  

That, and the answer to these questions, will determine how large a win this is:

1)  Will Obama, the new U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, the Democratic Congress, and the reproductive health and rights community working with them manage to remove the "abstinence only till heterosexual married monogamy restrictions" on U.S. HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, and direct more funding, intelligence, and effort to real HIV prevention, 
instead of just treating greater and greater numbers of AIDS patients, in Africa, as HIV infection continues to spread?

2)  Will the U.S. call for an end to the severe LGBT persecution in African states like Rwanda and Uganda, where both governments insist that homosexuality does not exist,  and for their inclusion in U.S.-funded HIV/AIDs prevention and treatment, as a condition for funding prevention and treatment?  

Because the Rwandan and Ugandan governments insist that there are no homosexuals in their countries, they refuse to treat homosexuals in the state health care system,, which includes U.S.-funded HIV/AIDS  care, and they most certainly do not include honesty, or education about safe, gay sex, in HIV prevention efforts. 

3)  Will US AIDS funding continue to be largely administered by USAID, whose mission is to advance U.S. interests abroad, in cooperation with the Department of Defense?  

The problem with PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has been not only that its so-called HIV prevention efforts actually cause HIV infection rates to rise, because so much funding for prevention is restricted to faith-based "abstinence only" efforts, but also that PEPFAR is used, in a number of ways, to advance U.S. imperial interests, military, military industrial, and corporate.  

The use of foreign aid to advance imperial interests, through USAID, is longstanding U.S. foreign policy that cannot be reversed with a single replacement of a Bush appointee.  That would require abolishing many of the most evil military and security bureaucracies in Washington D.C. , and, most likely, the American empire itself.

However, the case for making U.S. AIDS relief in Africa a truly charitable, rather than imperial effort, is very easy to make, morally, spiritually, and humanely.  

Perhaps we can join the reproductive health and rights community in advancing this argument as well.  

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