Global AIDS Relief Official Reaches out to Religious Right

Kent Hill, an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development, recently appeared on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” to tout the efforts made by the Bush Administration’s global AIDS initiative (called PEPFAR) to fund faith-based groups and abstinence outreach.

As we’ve noted, PEPFAR provided increased funding for AIDS relief, but also came with controversial restrictions seemingly keyed to ideology, most prominently a requirement that two-thirds of money for prevention of HIV transmission—including preexisting funding channels—go to programs dedicated exclusively to promoting abstinence-until-marriage and fidelity. This anti-condom measure was seen as a sop to the Religious Right, as were grants awarded to politically-connected faith-based groups. The Center for Public Integrity has a long report on the issue.

AP photoAlthough there was support among aid groups for the “ABC” strategy (“Abstinence, Being Faithful, and Condoms”) in principle, the requirements heavily favoring abstinence caused confusion and program cuts for condoms and mother-child transmission prevention. Hill, however, characterizes it as “a debate as to whether behavior change is possible” which has brought “some criticism from all sides.”

Hill, a history professor and former president of Eastern Nazarene College, served from 1986-1992 as head of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a right-wing group founded to support President Reagan’s Cold War efforts in Central America, mainly by insinuating ties between the mainline National Council of Churches and communist groups or the KGB. IRD was known in the 1980s as “the official seminary of the White House” (Nation, 4/17/89, via MT).

(AP photo via Center for Public Integrity.)