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Warren’s Counterproductive AIDS Efforts in Africa

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2009

Last month, I commented on how Rev. Rick Warren’s efforts to fight AIDS in Africa seemed to be more of a means by which to influence religious doctrine and public policy in several African nations than a charitable effort. My analysis seems confirmed by an article for the Daily Beast by Max Blumenthal, in which he investigates Warren’s AIDS efforts and finds them closely tied to anti-gay political activists and driven by dogmatic ideology.

In addition to the Anglican Bishops that are seeking to destroy the Church of England and remold it under their personal control, Warren has aligned himself with an evangelical pastor in Uganda, Martin Ssempa. This pastor quickly became interested in AIDS prevention after the US allocated 15 billion dollars (the PEPFAR program). While taking a salary from US taxpayers, he implemented efforts to remove condom use from Uganda’s successful ABC (abstinence, be faithful, condoms) anti-AIDS efforts.

By 2005, billboards promoting condom use disappeared from the streets of Kampala, replaced by billboards promoting virginity. “Until recently, all HIV-related billboards were about condoms. Those of us calling for abstinence and faithfulness need billboards too,” Ssempa told the BBC at the time. A 2005 report by Human Rights Watch documented that educational material in Uganda’s secondary schools falsely claiming condoms had microscopic pores that could be penetrated by the HIV virus and noted the sudden nationwide shortage of condoms due to new restrictions imposed by on condom imports.

Due in part to these efforts by Ssempa, HIV began to increase in the country.

AIDS activists arrived at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto in 2006 with disturbing news from Uganda. Due at least in part to the chronic condom shortage, HIV infections were on the rise again. The disease rate had spiked to 6.5 percent among rural men, and 8.8 percent among women—a rise of nearly two points in the case of women. “The ‘C’ part [of ABC] is now mainly silent,” said Ugandan AIDS activist Beatrice Ware. As a result, she said, “the success story is unraveling.”

This should have given concern to those most familiar with AIDS in Africa. However, Rick Warren did not seek to return to the success of ABC. Rather, he took personal action to continue the program that had been shown to increase HIV infection – abstinence only.

In February 2008, Rep. Tom Lantos sought to reform PEPFAR to lift the abstinence-only earmarks.

His maneuver infuriated Warren, who immediately boarded a plane for Washington to join Christian right leaders including born-again former Watergate felon Chuck Colson for an emergency press conference on the Capitol lawn. In his speech, Warren claimed that Lantos’ bill would spawn an increase in the sex trafficking of young women. The bill died and PEPFAR was reauthorized in its flawed form.

But Ssempa was not content to put his anti-sex agenda ahead of the AIDS-prevention efforts of his nation. He also used his political connections and US backing to advance a harshly homophobic political atmosphere in their nation.

August 2007, Ssempa led hundreds of his followers through the streets of Kampala to demand that the government mete out harsh punishments against gays. “Arrest all homos,” read placards. And: “A man cannot marry a man.” Ssempa continued his crusade online, publishing the names of Ugandan gay rights activists on a website he created, along with photos and home addresses. “Homosexual promoters,” he called them, suggesting they intended to seduce Uganda’s children into their lifestyle. Soon afterwards, two of President Yoweri Museveni’s top officials demanded the arrest of the gay activists named by Ssempa. Terrified, the activists immediately into hiding.

The more I learn about Rick Warren’s AIDS efforts in Africa, the less I respect him. He has endorsed policies that he knows are not the most effective and he has befriended and supported some of the most homophobic religious leaders in Christendom in their anti-gay political actions.

It is commendable that Rick Warren feels compassion for those suffering from AIDS in Africa. It is not commendable that he has used this suffering as a way to get a political and religious foothold in the region or that he capitalized on – and encouraged – hatred against gay people in the process.

Comments

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elaygee
January 7th, 2009 | LINK

Comment removed for violation of Comments Policy: “Unsubstantiated rumors or speculations, particularly where sexuality or sexual behavior is concerned

grantdale
January 7th, 2009 | LINK

The more one looks, the less there is to like. There’s smoke billowing everywhere, and we can all guess where it’s blowing from.

Perhaps… soon, Timothy, you too will drop using the compassion-word; except in an ironic way?

CoNpassion would be more appropriate, given the efforts and the outcomes.

(actually, I kind of like that as a new word for publicly-funded religious evangelism disguised as a secular interest in the welfare of others!)

AJD
January 7th, 2009 | LINK

You’re being a little too generous, I think. Unless Warren is clinically delusional, one can assume that he is well-aware of Ssempa’s homophobic campaigns and the inefficacy of abstinence-only programs. That doesn’t make me respect him less; it makes he despise him more.

AdrianT
January 7th, 2009 | LINK

This is disgraceful. The more I learn about Rick Warren, the more I despise him. And by the way, this is the same man who just 2 years ago, happily posed with the Syrian president, Assad. While enjoying the hospitality of a regime that sponsors murder in Lebanon and al-Qaida terrorism in Iraq, he happily undermined the government by denouncing the presence of US soldiers in Iraq.

He furthermore said Jews would be denied salvation, and takes his inspiration from a lunatic pastor called Wallie Amos Criswell, who fought against the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, preached hatred against Mormons and looked forward to Armageddon.

That Warren’s presence is an insult to LGBTs is, frankly, just the tip of the iceberg. This is an unpatriotic, sectarian, Anti-semitic, opportunistic, power-hungry charlatan, who is now exploiting the Inauguration to boost his ugly religious business interests.

Jonathan Justice
January 7th, 2009 | LINK

As we all get to do further reflection on Mr. Warren’s profession and his affiliations, let’s do note that it is these affiliations that get him his troubles. Baptists should know better.

While there may be a little sunlight between him and the initiators and funders of the Proposition 8 campaign, he signed up by repeating the party line, asserting when it was clearly false that civil recognition of same sex marriages would compel churches to refrain from criticizing homosexuality. This same affiliation led him further into the swamp. Obvious violations of common sense, like the widely noted comparisons to bestiality and sex with children are not ways to reach out to the unconvinced. They are ways to assert affiliation with traditional religionists critiques of homosexual behavior.

One might wonder why, given that his church is not in Utah or Arizona, he would choose this foolishness instead of the ostentatiously principled stance he could have taken: ‘While I think gay men should not marry each other or women who do not know what is up, this campaign is telling you lies. Christians should not enter lies into civil discourse. Our God loses even if we win the day.” The calculation behind the stance would be. ‘If Prop 8 wins I get to look principled, if it loses I get to look prophetic.’ Either outcome would have enhanced his reputation with persons likely to become members of his church or buy his books. He sold that for the ever- popular mess of bean soup that is the approval and affiliation of other powerful men.

While arguably worse, in that it helps people who cannot afford American medical care to get AIDS, the African performance boils down to pretty much the same thing: Leadership affiliation trumping honest and informed witness.

This is all very sad, but it is important to say so crisply, without sending too much spit flying.

Love
January 7th, 2009 | LINK

I’m a Ugandan, and I’ve witnessed all what these guys are claiming.
1- Dr. Martin has helped my nation very much as regards HIV/AIDS prevention. Initially Makerere was a dean of death! lots of our relatives were dying at the university, reason being HIV/AIDS. the spread was so much causal sex, and sex promotions, with out a full knowledge of what sex entails. its not a matter of just sleeping with someone. Sex has ability to reproduce (bear children), it entails much more, emotion, physical and spiritual….

About the the “Burning of Condoms”.. Initially the government had detected that more than a Million NGABO condoms were deffected(http://abstinenceafrica.com/library/index.php?entryid=1780), and they were supposed to be destroyed to protect our people, The government had to destroy them. Dr. Martin helped us alot, he protected our lives by burning those condoms. I WOULD BE A STATISTIC this day if I WERE TO USE THOSE DEADLY CONDOMS.

I urge you to read more and get to the ground.. there many Ugandans in Uganda, who know this, and its a shame that you biased your article, your fellow writers and journalists have written about the matter since 2005 but u’re still giving fake information. Which kinda of writer are you? you’ve to give REAL TRUTH!!!..

There are lots of links to help you…http://www.google.se/search?q=How+Fake+Condoms+Got+Onto+the+Market&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

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January 15th, 2009 | LINK

[…] Rick Warren’s anti-Aids efforts are homophobic and harmful. […]

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[…] to tens of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars that were intended for AIDS prevention, but which increased the spread of AIDS through vigilantism, prejudice, miseducation, and denial of access to […]

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