April 24, 2018 at 6:52 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Anti-LGBT South Africa group receives PEPFAR grant

(Image public domain)

A South Africa group that is affiliated with Focus on the Family has received a grant through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Think Progress last week reported Focus on the Family Africa on Sept. 18, 2017, received a $49,505 PEPFAR grant from the State Department’s Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator for its Thriving Family program in South Africa.

The program includes “No Apologies,” an abstinence-based curriculum that Focus on the Family Africa’s website states “helps young people make wise choices regarding high-risk behavior, including sexual involvement before marriage.” Understanding “the value of character and abstinence leading to healthy behavior” and identifying “clearly the consequences associated with premarital sexual activity” are among the curriculum’s four objectives that Focus on the Family Africa outlines.

The South Africa Department of Education, which is a PEPFAR partner, began to implement the program in the country’s schools in 2002 after Focus on the Family Africa developed it.

A State Department official on Monday told the Washington Blade the program has reached more than 2 million South African students. The official also noted Focus on the Family Africa requested the PEPFAR funding “for the schools that are currently not being funded by the (South Africa) Department of Education, but where they have requested the program.”

“Thriving Family delivers a highly interactive, character-based abstinence curriculum,” the official told the Blade. “Thriving Family is an abstinence-focused program, which teaches that while abstinence is the best method to prevent HIV, it is not the only method,” said the official.

“Thriving Family provides referrals for any services or information that they do not directly offer,” added the official.

Focus on the Family Africa began in 1992. Focus on the Family Vice President of Communications Paul Batura in a statement to the Blade describes Focus on the Family Africa as “an independent global partner of Focus on the Family,” which is based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“For over two decades, we have been providing care, advice, support and encouragement to families at every stage of life,” reads Focus on the Family Africa’s website. “We have worked hard to respond to the many real issues families face and to provide sound and practical guidance based on Christian principles.”

Focus on the Family Africa’s website says marriage “is intended by God to be a thriving, lifelong relationship between a man and a woman.” It also states that “God created humans in his image, intentionally and immutably male and female, each bringing unique and complementary qualities to sexuality and relationships.”

Focus on the Family’s website contains the same definition of marriage that Focus on the Family Africa uses. It also contains the same reference to God creating “humans in his image, intentionally and immutably male and female.”

South Africa in 1994 became the first country in the world to explicitly ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in its constitution.

The country’s constitution also bans hate speech and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. So-called corrective rape of lesbian women and other forms of discrimination and violence against LGBT South Africans nevertheless remains commonplace.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in South Africa since 2006. The South African government in 2016 banned an anti-LGBT pastor from the U.S. from entering the country.

The State Department official with whom the Blade spoke said the PEPFAR South Africa HIV and AIDS Community Grants Program, which oversees the allocation of PEPFAR funds to community-based organizations that fight HIV/AIDS in the country, “assessed and confirmed” that Focus on the Family Africa “is committed to providing nondiscriminatory access to HIV services, or appropriate referral for such services, to all individuals, including LGBTI persons.”

“Across all of its programs, PEPFAR is deeply committed to ensuring nondiscriminatory access to HIV prevention and treatment services for all individuals, including LGBTI people,” added the official.

Focus on the Family defends South Africa program

Former President George W. Bush created PEPFAR in 2003 as a way to combat the global AIDS epidemic.

PEPFAR has invested nearly $75 billion in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Roughly $1.4 billion of this figure has been spent on what a State Department official described to the Blade as “abstinence and be faithful activities,” even though scientists and HIV/AIDS service providers have questioned whether they actually reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is among those who have also criticized President Trump’s proposed cuts to PEPFAR.

“Focus on the Family Africa’s ‘No Apologies’ character-based abstinence education program has served hundreds of thousands of South African students over more than a decade and is highly regarded by South African government officials, school principals, parents and community members as an effective part of the solution to the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic,” said Batura in his statement to the Blade.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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