At Conference, Rev. Franklin Graham Urges Christians to Drop Stigma Surrounding AIDS, Support Education, Care Programs
Christian evangelical leader Rev. Franklin Graham, speaking yesterday during a five-day international conference on HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C., that was organized by his charity, Samaritan's Purse, called on Christians to "lay aside their prejudices" about HIV/AIDS and band together to fight the disease, the Washington Post reports. Graham, the son of evangelical preacher Billy Graham, spoke to conference attendees, including religious leaders, health care providers and lawmakers, from around the world. "Unfortunately and shamefully, the church has been somewhat asleep on [HIV/AIDS]," Graham said, noting that many Christians associate the disease with homosexuality and injection drug use (Murphy, Washington Post, 2/19). Graham said that "many" people contract HIV through infected blood or mother-to-child transmission, adding that Christians should show compassion for all those who are HIV-positive, regardless of how they got the disease. "We have to remind each other: What would Jesus do?" he asked (Fagan, Washington Times, 2/19). Graham called on Christians to actively fight the spread of HIV, stating, "We need a new army of men and women who are prepared to go around the world, to help in this battle" (Washington Post, 2/19). He added that to fight HIV/AIDS, Christians "do not have to compromise their beliefs," which may oppose such strategies as condom distribution. "I'm not going to promote condom use. I believe in abstinence. But I'm not going to let that stop me" from working with others who favor condom distribution, Graham said (Washington Times, 2/19). Graham stated that he will begin calling for greater funding for HIV/AIDS programs from the Christian community. He said that it was "a hard sell" to raise funds for HIV prevention in the Christian community but that he would "start ringing the bell." Samaritan's Purse donated $1.6 million last year toward HIV prevention programs. Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), speaking in a keynote address yesterday, also called for more funding (Washington Post, 2/19). Frist, who has worked with a Samaritan's Purse health mission in Sudan, said he would look into adoption regulations that some critics have said "make it nearly impossible to adopt foreign-born children who are HIV-positive" (Washington Times, 2/19). The conference concludes tomorrow (Washington Post, 2/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.