News Articles

Candidates: Church has role in AIDS fight

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–Six presidential candidates were united in telling the Global Summit on AIDS and the Church that America and its churches must exercise their influence in leading the world to end HIV/AIDS.

But, reflecting the tussle inherent in the race for the White House, the candidates differed on exactly what policies should be enacted to overcome the pandemic.

Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, noted in his video, “The [HIV/AIDS] issue is one of great importance that we need to discuss, and every candidate, Republican or Democrat, ought to talk about how AIDS is affecting not just people here in the United States, but across the world, and our collective responsibility to address this issue.”

Other Republican hopefuls addressing the third-annual summit via video were Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Among the Democrat candidates, Sen. Hilary Clinton addressed the summit in person, while Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards spoke via video.

McCain drew upon Scripture to encourage Christians to put their faith into action on the HIV/AIDS issue.

“The consistent message of the Gospels tells us to recognize that all life is sacred because all human beings are created in the image of God, and that we should love our neighbors as ourselves,” McCain said. “Those affected with AIDS are our neighbors and deserve our compassion, support and comfort. We should do all that we can as individuals, communities, churches and as a country to stop the spread of AIDS worldwide.”

Romney cited the principle of the servant leader, encouraging Americans to lead by putting the interests of others above their own.

“Perhaps there’s no other time in history that one nation has influenced the world, the entire world, like we have today,” Romney said. “Within this reality is a responsibility that’s tempered by the admonishment that to whom much is given, much is required. We can serve the least of these in the world, and in doing so, serve the God who first served us. It’s not about us, but it is in our interest to serve.”

Clinton, in her address to the summit’s 1,500 attendees at Saddleback Church in Southern California, said, “The fight against AIDS must be done hand in hand, building relationships with churches around the world and here at home. Because if we fail to engage churches in combating AIDS, we fail to conquer AIDS.”

Before introducing the candidates, Saddleback pastor Rick Warren encouraged the audience of church, business and civic leaders to embrace their personal leadership responsibility in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence,” Warren said.

One of the church’s greatest resources is its ability to serve as “an army of compassion, ready to be mobilized.” Warren said the church is the only entity growing faster than the epidemic, with more than 60,000 people joining the world’s congregations each day, while 5,700 people are infected with HIV each day.

Several of the candidates promoted an extension of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which expires next year. In addition, Obama pledged to ask for an additional $1 billion in new money each year for the next five years toward HIV/AIDS prevention, education and care. His video message focused on health care in developing nations, calling for the adoption of humanitarian licensing policies so that medications developed in the United States can be sold at lower prices as generics in countries where poverty has given way to desperate need.

Edwards advocated making medicine more readily available in developing nations, pledging to forego profit protection for drug manufacturers in favor of lower prices and more extensive distribution of HIV/AIDS treatment. He then turned his focus to the United States, calling for a universal health care system to assist the country’s more than 1 million people living with HIV/AIDS.

Clinton, focusing on the HIV/AIDS struggle within specific groups, especially women and girls, spoke of the history of Americans, and the faith community in particular, of fighting injustice in behalf of those who need someone to fight for them. Citing slavery, discrimination, debt relief, genocide and global warming as issues where the church has taken a stand, Clinton expressed trust that AIDS/HIV will not go unnoticed.

“I know the power of faith, and of people of faith, when we heed Isaiah’s call to life up our voices like trumpets. Together, I believe we can write the next chapter in this history. It is a proud and grace-filled history.”

Huckabee, speaking of policy issues in his video remarks, focused on U.S. health care, stating that Medicaid should cover HIV (the current system covers only AIDS). He also called for greater attention to the prevalence of AIDS in minority communities in the United States, pledging greater resources and more extensive research to solve the problem.

McCain pledged to pursue policies to enable entrepreneurs and exporters to increase their access to international markets, enhancing trade and investments throughout the world and “sparking a renaissance” in the developing world.
Meredith Day is a writer based in San Diego.

    About the Author

  • Meredith Day