Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Lawmakers Fear US Overseas Life-Saving AIDS Program Being Hijacked to Spread Liberal Agenda

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WASHINGTON – A program designed to stop HIV/AIDS that’s saved millions of lives is up for renewal by Congress, but its future is unknown. That’s because some lawmakers fear this historic, life-saving program is being hijacked to spread a liberal agenda abroad.

Each year, America offers billions of dollars in aid around the world, but one program in particular has returned remarkable results. U.S. taxpayers have saved a generation of Africans through the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief or PEPFAR created by President George W. Bush 21 years ago.

At the time, HIV infected 30 million Africans and 14 million children had lost their parents to the disease. In some regions, life expectancy had fallen by 20 years before PEPFAR reversed the tide.

“It has saved over 25 million lives, prevented HIV AIDS transmissions from affecting 5.5 million children,” said John Nkengasong, U.S. Global AIDS coordinator.

Those extraordinary numbers make the program wildly popular both abroad and here at home.

“PEPFAR has enjoyed the bipartisan support in no less than eight U.S. Congresses,” explained Peter Barlerin, former U.S. ambassador to Cameroon.

Today, however, PEPFAR faces an uncertain future as its five-year reauthorization is overdue and some conservative lawmakers and pro-life groups are sounding the alarm. They fear life-saving tax dollars are being drained from the program to advance abortion and other global agendas of the Biden administration.

“And this is taking money away from monies that would be used to save human lives to advance a political agenda,” explained Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

When President Bush launched PEPFAR, and President Trump last authorized it, an executive order barred the program from spending tax dollars on abortion under the so-called Mexico City Policy. President Biden rescinded it.

“And they used the word — it integrates sexual reproductive health and rights and, of course, that means abortion with HIV AIDS work,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said during a speech on the House floor.

Pro-life groups say that allows American tax dollars to flow unfettered to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide those services. The Biden administration said that’s not the case.

“PEPFAR has never been an abortion program. It’s not and will never be,” Nkengasong said.

He pointed to a 1973 amendment that prohibits foreign aid from funding abortions overseas, but pro-life groups say it’s happening.

“In our review, about 107 international organizations, 26 of them have a primary or a priority in their organization of promoting abortion. And we’ve seen over a billion dollars go to these organizations, whose primary purpose is to advocate for and promote abortion,” Perkins said. 

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In addition to abortion, critics say tax dollars are also being used to lobby against pro-life laws in some African countries.

“Most of the African countries are solidly pro-life and they are under siege by the NGOs that we are supporting,” Smith said.

In a letter to Congress 130 African parliament and faith leaders “express concerns and suspicions that {PEPFAR} funding is supporting… practices, including abortion, that violate our core beliefs concerning life, family, and religion.”

“This isn’t cultural imperialism. These aren’t even values that all Americans agree upon, but they’re being pushed on them by the Biden administration and this is very disturbing,” Perkins told CBN News.

Still, many including the founder of PEPFAR argue the program is by its nature, life-giving.

“There is no program more pro-life than one that has saved more than 25 million lives. I urge Congress to reauthorize PEPFAR for another five years without delay,” President Bush wrote in a recent op-ed in The Washington Post.

Bush and others are calling for immediate reauthorization and argue the worth of America’s international word is at stake. However, Perkins calls pushing liberal values on our African allies a “dangerous approach.”

“We see the world right now almost on fire and we have many of these allies in Africa where we see these terrorist organizations now moving to set up headquarters,” he said. “We’re pushing many of these countries that should be allies and have been into the arms of others because we are forcing them to embrace an agenda that runs counter to the values of those countries.”

Now, while Congress deliberates, AIDS patients around the world are watching intently.

“It is saving a lot of people, especially here in Africa, here in Kenya, and even me, I am here because of PEPFAR funding of ARVs (antiretrovirals), if it is not there, I am dead,” said Bernard Mwololo, an HIV survivor and beneficiary of PEPFAR in Kenya.

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