FOR NON-WHITES born in post-apartheid South Africa, the country promised equal rights and legal freedom. But the first generation of “born frees,” as they are called, also entered a world where HIV/AIDS was destroying their families and communities. Many children and teens were left largely fending for themselves in townships plagued by poverty, disease, and violence.
Author Kimberly Burge, a Sojourners contributing writer, entered this world not as an aid or social worker, but rather on a Fulbright scholarship, to form a writing group for adolescent girls in the township of Gugulethu. Too old for the child-centered programs and too young for adult assistance, the girls were falling through the cracks of established programs. The writing club offered them the opportunity to creatively express their fears, frustrations, and dreams.
To Burge’s credit, the book is not primarily about her or her experiences. She keeps the focus on the girls themselves and the often breathtaking words and thoughts they express in their writing. Burge is not there to rescue them, but rather to help them find their voices. She acts less as a teacher than a peer, encouraging girls to lead the group themselves and prompting them to write about such topics as “I wish I could ...” or “I need to find a place ...”
By her own count, Bishop Yvette Flunder has officiated at 149 funerals for victims of AIDS and HIV. Her office in Oakland, Calif., contains the ashes from some of those funerals after family members refused to claim them.
In recent weeks, she’s been celebrated and castigated for being an African-American bishop who’s legally married to another woman.
But when the time came for her to speak at a small Baptist college in this Bible Belt city, she chose to forgive the black clergymen who called her appearance a “travesty of the highest order.”
“I’m not using my energy for useless fights,” the third-generation preacher said at the end of a rousing sermon on March 17.
“I’m using my energy to find peace. Let there be peace on earth.”
In an OpEd that appeared on POLITICO Monday, Mike Huckabee, the former Republican governor of Arkansas, and Blanche Lincoln, the former Democratic senator from Arkansas -- who together co-chair ONE Vote 2012, a non-partisan campaign to make global health and extreme poverty foreign policy priorities in the 2012 presidential election, wrote about the importance of maintaining U.S. foreign aid to the developing world that has helped make significant improvements in the health and sustainability of myriad nations, including many on the continent of Africa.
They wrote, in part:
It might come as a surprise to learn that less than one percent of the U.S. budget is spent on foreign assistance. It might even be shocking to discover that, despite this relatively small amount, these funds are literally saving millions of lives and improving the lives of many more millions of people.
For example, American investments in cost-effective vaccines will help save nearly 4 million children’s lives from preventable diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea over the next five years. We’ve also helped to deliver 290 million mosquito nets to Malaria-stricken countries, and put 46 million children in school for the very first time. And thanks to the leadership of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, 8 million HIV/AIDS patients now have access to life-saving treatments, up from just 300,000 a decade ago, making an AIDS-free generation a real possibility within our lifetimes.
Both Republicans and Democrats have a religion problem and it has nothing to do with same-sex marriage, abortion or religious liberty. Rather it is budgets, deficits, and debt ceiling deadlines that are their serious stumbling blocks.
That’s right, in a city deeply divided between the political right and left there is a growing consensus from religious leaders about getting our fiscal house in order and protecting low-income people at the same time. Together, many of us are saying that there is a fundamental religious principle missing in most of our political infighting: the protection of the ones about whom our scriptures say God is so concerned.
Indeed, the phrase “a budget is a moral document” originated in the faith community, and has entered the debate. But those always in most in jeopardy during Washington’s debates and decisions are precisely the persons the Bible instructs us clearly to protect and care for — the poorest and most vulnerable. They have virtually none of the lobbyists that all the other players do in these hugely important discussions about how public resources will be allocated.
For us, this is definitely not a partisan issue, but a spiritual and biblical one that resides at the very heart of our faith. It is the singular issue which has brought together the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Salvation Army, and the leaders of church denominations, congregations, and faith-based organizations across the nation.
In a move that surprised many in the world of economics and politics, on Friday morning President Obama nominated Jim Yong Kim, the South Korea-born physician, anthropologist and president of Dartmouth College, to be the next president of the World Bank.
Prior to taking the helm at Dartmouth in 2009, Kim, 52, led the global health and social medicine department at Harvard Medical School, of which he is a graduate. Widely considered one of the leading minds in world health, Kim also has served as a director of the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organization, where he focused on helping developing countries improve treatment and prevention programs.
Obama called Kim, “an innovative leader whose groundbreaking work to fight disease and combat poverty has saved lives around the globe.” The President said Kim is exceptionally well qualified for the position but brings “more to the role than an impressive record of designing new ways to solve entrenched problems.
“Development is his lifetime commitment, and it is his passion,” Obama said. “And in a world with so much potential to improve living standards, we have a unique opportunity to harness that passion and experience at the helm of the World Bank.”
Yes, it's odd, having a rock star here—but maybe it's odder for me than for you. You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was… well, a little blurry, and hard to see.
I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays… and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.
For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land… and in this country, seeing God's second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash… in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment…
I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.
Even though I was a believer.
Perhaps because I was a believer.
~ Bono of U2, in his 2006 National Prayer Breakfast keynote address
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The news is hopeful. We have seen both progress and proof:
- New data shows that an HIV-positive person on treatment is 96 percent less likely to pass HIV on to others.
- It only costs, on average, $335 for AIDS treatment through PEPFAR (down nearly 70 percent since 2004!).
- 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have reduced new HIV infections by 25 percent.
- Clinical trials show that voluntary male circumcision reduces the risk of new HIV infection in men by roughly 60 percent.
Yesterday was truly a momentous occasion. Looking at all the progress we have made, especially in the last 10 years, it is a moment for us to not only celebrate, but in the words of President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, “recommit ourselves,” to end the fight against AIDS totally.
Today marks the anniversary of World AIDS Day. The USAID estimates that since the epidemic began, over 60 million people have been infected with the disease, and over 25 million lives taken.
One of the most prominant figures fronting the fight against AIDS is U2 frontman, Bono. In 2002, Bono became vocal about the epidemic, embarking on a tour across the American Midwest to recruit churches to join the fight against AIDS in Africa. In Christianity Today’s 2003 feature “Bono’s American Prayer,” (written by Sojo’s own Cathleen Falsani) he articulates the crucial role the church must play in combating the epidemic.
"If the church doesn't respond to this, the church will be made irrelevant. It will look like the way you heard stories about people watching Jews being put on the trains. We will be that generation that watched our African brothers and sisters being put on trains."
By 2015, we could have an AIDS free generation.
AIDS was first identified nearly 30 years ago and has claimed countless lives. Currently, 1,000 babies around the globe are born with the virus each day. During much of the past few decades it’s been hard to see much hope when it comes to turning the tide against this disease.
But, thanks to smart public health decisions, public investment in strategies that work, and innovative implementation by NGO’s, we can now begin to envision a day when this mountain will be moved. During FY 2011 PEPFAR, (The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDs Relief) supported the prevention of 200,000 children contracting HIV/AIDS from their mother.
With continued investment we are just a few years away from preventing nearly ALL children from being born with the virus.
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ONE and (RED) have started a community art project of sorts, known as the (2015)QUILT. Driven by the goal to have an HIV/AIDS free generation by 2015, ONE and (RED) are focusing on the 1,000 babies born every day to mothers who have HIV/AIDS. The crux is this: get the 1.4 million pregnant women who are HIV positive on meds that cost $0.40 a day (you read that correctly), 98 percent of their babies won’t have HIV/AIDS transferred to them, and soon enough, we have a healthy generation. How easy does that sound?
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If we look at what is happening this week – elections in Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo, an aid effectiveness conference in South Korea, the continuing Arab Spring in Syria and beyond, World Aids Day Thursday – and in the coming weeks -- the U.N. climate change conference, COP17 -- we cannot pretend that these events have no impact on our lives here and now.
Every one of these events is a matter of justice. The citizens of Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo deserve the opportunity to express freely, without fear of intimidation or violence, how they believe their country should be governed. Having spent some time in the region, I believe that the people of the DRC deserve more than any other to live in a country where they are safe and secure.
How we assist other countries in their development is an issue of justice.
This week, the Senate will vote on H.R. 2354, an appropriation bill that will determine the amount of funds we allocate for poverty-related development assistance. There are a number of amendments proposed that will severely cut this aid, which currently helps millions of the world's poorest and most vulnerable. The bottom 1 percent, if you will.
Right now, in cities around the world, there is a growing protest movement putting the issue of economic inequality squarely on the public agenda. Regardless how you feel about this movement, I believe there is another "99 percent" we need the G20 – and urgently Congressional leaders – to remember and prioritize.
Nearly 8 million children under the age of five die every year due to preventable malnutrition and disease. But they are not dying in the United States, Germany or here in France.
According to research by World Vision’s Child Health Now campaign, 99 percent of those entirely preventable deaths take place in developing countries. The 99 percent of the children that die under the age of 5 are too often invisible and don't have a voice at major global summits such as the G20 or in the corridors of Congress. These children constitute the real and too often forgotten 99 percent.