Faith leaders to Obama: Increase resources to fight global AIDS

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Bishops, rabbis and pastors across the U.S. sent a letter to the President  Monday making the case for increased funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and U.S. contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

President Obama is poised to make his fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget request to Congress early next year, and the leaders from various faiths came together to urge him to significantly increase funding to effectively respond to the global AIDS epidemic.

“The newest information from UNAIDS shows our prevention efforts have helped cut new infections significantly and we now have over 5.2 million people on life‐saving therapy,” the letter states. “However, an additional ten million people still need treatment today and millions of new infections must be prevented. We are billions short of what is needed and what was promised to fight AIDS.”

The faith community leaders that signed the letter include Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service, and Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman of the Conference of National Black Churches.

“The President has spoken strongly about his commitment to fighting AIDS worldwide, which is going to require that we invest as a nation in continuing that fight next year,” said James Winkler, one of the letter signatories and General Secretary of the General Board of Church & Society at United Methodist Church, in a press release.  “We hope that the President will address this issue in his State of the Union address and 2012 budget.”

Numerous religious institutions and leaders sent a similar letter to President Obama last year.

In related news, Annette Lantos, chairman of the Lantos Foundation and wife of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, sent a similar letter to President Obama reminding him of his leadership in global HIV/AIDS and encouraging him to step up funding in his budget request for FY2012. Rep. Lantos co-authored the U.S. Leadership against HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria Act of 2008, also known as the Lantos-Hyde Act. It was the last major piece of legislation he wrote before his death.

“He was extremely proud of this bill and before he died he often spoke about it,” Annette Lantos wrote in the letter. “Yet, today we are concerned that the legacy of a bold and hopeful vision for the future of millions suffering from and affected by HIV, left to us by Tom Lantos and Henry Hyde, is faltering.”

The letter follows on a statement by the Lantos Foundation last July.

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