Friday, July 23, 2010

The Obama admin Reduces Funding for Faith-Based AIDS Programs

While I don't believe that individuals or organizations should be totally reliant on the government for funding I also don't think getting some help from the government is wrong either. I really hope they figure out about getting additional funding for the AID's patients. My prayers are with those that are HIV/AIDS patients undergoing treatment and also those who help aid in their treatment. With help from God, I hope and pray that they attain the additional necessary funding soon.

VIENNA (CNS) -- Large reductions in funding for AIDS work around the world are putting at risk the lives of people who depend on faith-based organizations for care, treatment and support, warned Catholic activists and others participating in the XVIII International AIDS Conference.

Results from a rapid assessment of 19 faith-based organizations working on AIDS in poor countries was conducted in June by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, which announced the results at a July 21 news conference.

The study found that all but two of the agencies surveyed were already experiencing at least a flat-lining of funding. Some had already been forced to make cutbacks in the past six months while others had been warned that cuts in funding levels are about to be announced.

Becky Johnson, the researcher who compiled the report, said funding cuts to faith-based groups could devastate poor areas of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, where such organizations provide up to 70 percent of health care and HIV-related services.

U.S. Maryknoll Father Richard Bauer, executive director of Catholic AIDS Action, a program of the Namibian bishops' conference, expressed concern that he may soon be forced to chose who lives and who dies.

"We provide support for over 14,000 orphans, and this cut in funding forces me to ask which child I have to say no to. What are the criteria? Is it the poorest kids, the HIV-positive kids, do we do psycho-social assessment, or what?" Father Bauer asked. "The donors say I've got to cut 20 percent, and I need their help in figuring out where. But when I ask, they respond with deafening silence."

Father Bauer's largest single funder is the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, created in 2003. The priest said PEPFAR has told him to expect a decline in funds through 2015. That cut is rumored to be 20 percent, Father Bauer said, while the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, another major donor, has indicated that he will soon lose an initial 10 percent, with more cuts likely to follow.

"PEPFAR wants to fund the government because they see that as more sustainable. Excuse me, but the government of Namibia came into existence only in 1990, whereas the church has been there for hundreds of years. If you're really interested in sustainability, then fund the church," Father Bauer told Catholic News Service.

The phrase "Treatment 2.0" debuted in Vienna, pushed by people such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former U.S. President Bill Clinton as code for doing more with less, for being smarter in carrying out programs. Yet Father Bauer said it does not apply to his programs.

"Everyone is talking Treatment 2.0 and that we have to be smarter. In some of the larger NGOs and government programs, they can do that. But faith-based organizations like the one I work with have no padding in the budget. We run things on a shoestring. Out of a sense of justice and integrity I never padded our budget. It's already bare bones. I put in there just what I needed to provide services," he said.

"Yet we just got a 17 percent increase in our electricity cost. There's a petrol increase. And salaries have to go up at least 5 percent a year if we want to keep qualified staff. My fixed costs are going up, and the funding is going down. Yet they say, 'Be smarter.' Well, I give them my budget and say, 'How do I do that?' Because I don't have the answer," he said, adding, "I think the faith-based organizations have been smarter all along." CONTINUED

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