Abstinence, of course, is the only guaranteed way of not contracting HIV sexually. That’s one of the values taught by Living Hope, along with other Biblical principles, in its prevention and education programming. Perino told CNN host John King, “The key to any type of poverty eradication is education. And in this case, it's not only education for those youngsters to be able to get jobs, but prevention, and prevention is the next step.”
Unfortunately, it appears prevention is not the next step in the eyes of one of Living Hope’s biggest supporters, USAID and PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). In late March, Living Hope received a letter from USAID stating that as of October 1, PEPFAR funds will no longer be available for the AB (Abstinence and Be Faithful) program because they are being redirected toward different targets. In a letter to Living Hope supporters, Pastor John Thomas, chairman of Living Hope, wrote, “Effectively they have decided to focus away from children and youth, and focus on sexually active adults.”
Thomas said the implications of this announcement include:
- The potential shutting down of Living Hope’s Life Skills ministry, which employs full-time educators in six communities
- The Support Group ministry (which counsels HIV-positive individuals) effectively being cut in half
- Social work also being cut in half
- Salary cuts or outright loss of jobs among support and administrative staff
PEPFAR, a George W. Bush initiative, has made a tremendous impact on people with HIV and AIDS, particularly in Africa, where 18 percent of the population is HIV-positive. Thanks to PEPFAR, 2.2 million people worldwide are receiving anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment for HIV, and many of those are in Africa (up from 50,000 prior to the program’s creation).
Certainly, the care for people suffering from this affliction needs to continue, and thankfully President Obama recognizes that need. But this change of course in the distribution of PEPFAR funds is a signficant blow to those attempting to address the underlying reasons for HIV and AIDS. If people are not educated as to the cause of it, the cycle is only going to continue.
To continue its education and prevention efforts, Living Hope is seeking alternate funding possibilities. The total budget for each community is approximately $4,000 per month. If you are interested in contributing or learning more, contact John Thomas at email@example.com. As Pastor John stated in his letter, “We trust that we may be able to continue to bring the hope of Jesus as we address values and behaviour and provide life skills in the communities in which we minister. We believe God called us to this.”