First Lady Laura Bush Promotes Role of Faith-Based Groups in African HIV/AIDS Efforts
First lady Laura Bush on Thursday while visiting Lusaka, Zambia, promoted the role of faith-based organizations in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa, the AP/San Diego Tribune reports (Schatz, AP/San Diego Tribune, 6/28). Bush is on her third visit to Africa to highlight programs funded by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the President's Malaria Initiative. She has used her trip to examine the role of faith-based organizations and visited two such organizations in Zambia. Bush also traveled to Senegal, Mozambique and Mali as part of the Africa tour (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/28).
"Religious institutions bring a personal healing touch to the fight against AIDS," Bush said, adding that Zambian health care providers "know very well the healing power of faith." Bush was speaking at a community center outside of Lusaka, where she participated in a round-table discussion with local Zambian women and girls who are caring for family and friends with HIV/AIDS. Bush also said that abstinence is a "very important component of the program." She said, "There are several ways in which we can reach young people," adding, "One of the effective ways is abstinence, ... it brings back dignity and self-responsibility to young people."
Canisius Banda, a spokesperson for the Zambian Ministry of Health, said the department places "great importance to the role of faith-based organizations in ... the fight against HIV and AIDS." However, he said such groups are not always supportive of certain aspects of the "ABC" HIV prevention model -- meaning abstinence, be faithful and use condoms. Faith-based organizations are "weak on condom usage," he said, adding, "They seem to have difficulty with that part of the message. They are very strong on abstinence as well as being faithful." Ambassador Mark Dybul, who serves as the U.S. global AIDS coordinator and administers PEPFAR, said that 40% to 50% of health care in Africa is provided by faith-based organizations.
In addition, faith-based groups, including World Vision and Catholic Relief Services, are partnering with local Zambian groups to distribute 500,000 insecticide-treated bed nets throughout Zambia (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/28). Half of the $2.5 million program is funded by U.S. corporations -- including Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and the NBA -- that are part of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/28).
Zambia To Receive $800M for HIV/AIDS Programs
In related news, PEPFAR will provide $800 million to Zambia over five years to fight HIV/AIDS in the country, Dybul said Thursday while traveling with Bush, Reuters reports. According to Dybul, the U.S. initially had planned to provide Zambia with $534 million during the first four years of PEPFAR but increased the amount to $800 million to cover five years. "We need broader efforts to fight the AIDS pandemic and to prevent new infections, especially in Africa because this is where there are 70% of AIDS orphans," Dybul said (Reuters, 6/28).
U.S. Gives $300,000 to Organization of African First Ladies
The U.S. government will give the Organization of African First Ladies $300,000 for its HIV/AIDS programs on the continent, Bush also announced on Thursday, Xinhua/People's Daily reports. She praised Zambian first lady Maureen Mwanawasa, who chairs OAFLA, for her efforts to fight the pandemic and support vulnerable children and women. Mwanawasa, who accompanied Bush, called for increased access to education for children about the dangers of unsafe sex. She added that Bush's visit is an inspiration to Zambia's efforts in fighting HIV/AIDS in the country and throughout the continent (Xinhua/People's Daily, 6/29).
The Chicago Tribune on Friday examined the ABC approach to HIV prevention and how it is being incorporated into Zambia's national HIV/AIDS strategy (Silva, Chicago Tribune, 6/29).