Don't twist facts on AIDS funds withdrawal
THE EDITOR, Sir:
On September 8, 2014, The Gleaner published a letter from gay-rights activist Pete Delisser titled 'Withdrawal of funding will affect CHART's future?' Among other things, Mr Delisser stated: "Although the agency is withdrawing funds, the United States' President Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) cited global cutbacks, which may well be the case, many cannot help but wonder if the controversial Bain issue didn't impact the decision to withdraw support."
Mr Delisser sought to castigate the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship for its support of Professor Brendan Bain, saying, "This was the same group who could not understand the conflict of interest in Bain's case, where his position and views clearly contradicted the objectives and values of CHART ... . What a tangled web we weave!"
News broke last week of the US Health Department's policy shift in AIDS and HIV funding, which has resulted in the discontinuation of funds for the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Programme (CHART) and other health training partnerships. This development was anticipated as late last year, the US PEPFAR asked nations around the world to submit their country operation plans to the office of the Global AIDS Coordinator for review.
Consequent to this review, funding for programmes around the world, including those managed by the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Alliance in the Eastern Caribbean, the University of the West Indies CHART, as well as others in the United States and elsewhere, has been cut. In fact, the Eastern Caribbean was advised about month ago that funding would end in September.
There has even been a policy shift within the domestic US AIDS programme so that other initiatives within that country are similarly affected. The upshot is that more money is to be made available for the direct care and treatment of men who have sex with men and sex workers. In its new iteration, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Suriname are to be treated as high priority.
I trust this information is helpful to Mr Delisser and your readers. I resisted the impulse to score political points in the LGBT debate at the expense of unfortunate persons afflicted and affected by HIV/AIDS. Respectfully, I recommend that Mr Delisser does the same.
President, Lawyers' Christian Fellowship