Late yesterday, Change.org posted an article in response to my post about Aid for AIDS Nevada (AFAN). The AIDS services organization is now the target of a petitionfrom Change.org asking AFAN to denounce Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Change.org’s Michael Jones makes the case for action from AFAN:
It’s quite the sticky situation. AFAN hosts an AIDS Walk. It allows Canyon Ridge Christian Church to march in it as a legitimate participant. Yet at the same time, Canyon Ridge Christian Church is financially supporting a man who would sooner see gay HIV-positive people murdered than taken care of or treated.
As the largest AIDS service organization in Nevada, AFAN no doubt does some critical work. But they’re failing their constituents, clients, and the Nevada community at large by not addressing Canyon Ridge Christian Church’s partnership with Ugandan ministers who want to write into law one of the most criminalizing laws toward HIV-positive people in the world.
However, AFAN’s Executive Director doesn’t see the problem. In an email, late last evening, AFAN’s leader, Jennifer Morss, said AFAN has no partnership with Canyon Ridge:
We do not partner with Canyon Ridge. In fact, we are simply a recipient of their donations in support of our lifesaving, essential programming for individuals surviving HIV/AIDS…we are not able to cease a partnership that does not exist.
Ms. Morss also said she could not say what AFAN would do next year since they had not starting planning for the 2011 AIDS Walk.
In contrast to Ms. Morss reaction, the AFAN Facebook page has been buzzing with requests for them to sever ties with Canyon Ridge. The Red Ribbon Army, a Facebook group of over 500,000 members twice posted requests for AFAN to clarify their position on Canyon Ridge. The first comment was removed from the page by AFAN. The last two comments read:
The Red Ribbon Army We deserve an answer. Aid for AIDS of Nevada owes us the courtesy of replying and letting us know exactly why it is that they are partnering with a church that is sponsoring murder.
The Red Ribbon Army The organization targeted by this petition has removed our post from their fb page (as described in this article). We ask again Aid for AIDS of Nevada! Do you support the Uganda death penalty bill for gays living with HIV/AIDS?
Truth Wins Out, Mike Tidmus and Michael Bussee and others (some deleted)have also posted comments asking for a clear statement from AFAN.
In June, Canyon Ridge Christian Church pastor, Kevin Odor, used the church relationship with AFAN (CRCC’s team page here) as a point of defense against charges of inconsistency due to support for Martin Ssempa. Describing a conversation with NPR’s Barbara Bradley Hagerty, Rev. Odor said at about 11:25 into the video:
Well, we care about AIDS in Africa, you know what, we care about AIDS in Clark County. For the last five years, members of our church have organized themselves and marched in the AFAN parade – Aid for AIDS of Southern Nevada. And we show up and we raise money and we help support the that organization that helps take care of people in Southern Nevada with AIDS and their families that are dealing with it.
Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin posted an unanswered letterto AFAN and raised concerns about CRCC’s use of their participation in the AIDS Walk as a means of image management.
Anyone who reads the the Anti-Homosexuality Bill can see how tragic CRCC’s position is. I believe many of their members do care about Uganda; they raised $30,000 one Christmas to buy farm animals for Ugandan families and they support the staff of Makerere Community Church. However, the stance of their Ugandan partner has been a hindrance to AIDS work there, especially among gays and bisexuals.
Elsewhere I have discussed how the AHB could also undo AIDS progress among straights. One of my sources of information on AIDS in Uganda is Dr. Ed Green at Harvard, and a former colleague of Martin Ssempa. In the past, Dr. Green recommended Ssempa’s work. Ssempa still has this recommendation posted on his website. However, Dr. Green would like it removed, telling me in a July email:
I asked Martin Ssempa in a very clear and direct manner to remove my name from his site. I checked and you are right: he has not done so.
Will AFAN lead on the question of what is good in the AIDS arena? So far, they are MIA and allowing an opportunity for dialogue about what caring for AIDS here and in Africa means to slip away.