Kenyan Pastors Write to Biden For Bush-Era AIDS Relief

Biden and a woman holding meds
A photo collage between US President Joe Biden (left) and a woman holding medication (right).
White House / Doctors Without Borders

Kenyan pastors have written to United States President, Joe Biden asking him to reauthorize the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) plan.

The project was former US president George Bush’s brainchild and has aided several children suffering from HIV/AIDS not only in Kenya but in several other African countries.

In the letter addressed to the US Congress, the clergy sought Biden’s approval to continue the initiative that expires on September 30, 2023.

PEPFAR was started in 2003 during Bush’s administration and has saved over 20 million lives according to church leaders.

A doctor and a patient
A doctor prescribing medication to a patient.

“PEPFAR has been a lifesaving, pro-life program that has succeeded in protecting our families and children beyond our greatest expectations. It has been an answer to prayer,” the clergy’s letter read in parts.

“We ask you to reauthorize PEPFAR in order to consolidate the gains so far achieved, and continue progress toward a generation free from HIV/AIDS.”

The clerics’ letter was written in response to another letter sent to the US Congress in June by other religious leaders and legislators who cautioned against the re-authorization of PEPFAR.

According to the leaders, the program’s funds were being used to finance family planning and reproductive health programs including abortion, something that they said went against African Values.

Consequently, the leaders demanded assurances that the program would stay its initial course and keep to African values and norms before being authorized.

Nonetheless, Kenyan pastors refuted these claims highlighting the programs’ importance to the HIV/AIDS community.

“It’s all unfounded. We have never heard or seen the fund being used for abortion programs,” Pastor Nyabuto Marube of the Evangelical Church of Christ rubbished the claims.

“People in my community have benefited in a big way. They have been able to access medicines and treatment,” he emphasized.

Currently, it remains to be seen whether the programme will be re-authorized, with some members in Congress pushing for its restructuring into an education and sex abstinence Program.

One such congressman is U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, chair of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, who posited that any new funding in the program should come with regulations barring groups that promote abortion rights.

Smith based his sentiments on a report from U.S. think tank Heritage Foundation that termed PEPFAR an “entirely Democratic-run program” that made abortion and LGBTQ issues a priority.

The Foundation also asked that the program be made a development program that would shift more funding to local health providers.

A section of Kenyans protesting scarcity of ARV drugs
A section of Kenyans protesting scarcity of ARV drugs
Seattle Times
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