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Evangelical Christians Lobby for AIDS Funds
Groups Endorse Bush's $15 Billion Program


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Clive Calver, left, president of World Relief, and Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, discuss relations between Christians and Muslims at a conference. (Lawrence Jackson -- AP)

In his article, Mr. President, Africa Needs Us, rock star Bono writes " Unless we, as an international community, go to war against this killer, there will be at least 25 million AIDS orphans in Africa by the end of this decade."
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By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 13, 2003; Page A02

They admit they are coming late to the battle against HIV and AIDS. But evangelical Christians went to Capitol Hill yesterday to lobby for full funding of President Bush's five-year, $15 billion program to prevent and treat the disease in Africa and the Caribbean.

In the 1980s, many evangelicals viewed AIDS as a disease of gays and drug users, and consequently "had less compassion for the victims," said Richard E. Stearns, president of the Christian relief group World Vision.

But in the past five years, concern about the disease's impact on Africa has spread through evangelical churches, fostered by missionaries and relief groups such as World Vision and the Rev. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse.

"We realized that all the work we'd been doing to provide education, clean water, health care and food in Africa was like building sandcastles on a beach when there's a tidal wave offshore," Stearns said.

Last year, Graham organized a conference on the issue. This week, it was World Vision's turn. Together with the National Association of Evangelicals and the relief group MAP International, Stearns brought 250 ministers, missionaries and donors to Washington for two days of meetings on HIV and AIDS.

The Rev. John Good, 41, mission pastor at the 4,000-member Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, Minn., said relief groups caused a sea change in attitudes since the mid-1990s by arranging for American families to pay $26 a month per child to feed and clothe African children whose parents have died from AIDS complications.

Members of his church, Good said, have "adopted" 1,500 orphans in this way. AIDS in Africa was "faceless, faraway, stigmatized," he said. "But for our people now, it's a child. The 'gay disease' -- that's out the window when you've got pictures of a kid on the fridge."

Good was among 90 evangelicals who divided into groups yesterday to visit about 20 lawmakers from both parties, according to World Vision lobbyist Robert G. Zachritz. He said their primary plea was for Congress to appropriate the full $15 billion authorized by Bush's global AIDS program, beginning with $3 billion for fiscal 2004.

Evangelicals also support provisions in the program, which Bush signed into law May 27, that earmark a third of the prevention funds for sexual abstinence programs. But Zachritz said that was not the focus of yesterday's lobbying, because it is in the law and because some Christian groups, including World Vision, support distribution of condoms to high-risk populations.

Congressional Democrats have questioned the strength of Bush's commitment to his own initiative, noting that the president's budget request for next year seeks about $2 billion for AIDS, instead of the $3 billion directed in the law.

Presidential adviser Karl Rove, who briefed the evangelicals at the White House on Wednesday, did not explain the president's lower budget request and was not asked about it, participants said.

"If your kid has been getting all C's on his report card for years, and he comes back with a B-plus, you don't ask why he didn't get an A," Stearns said. "You just pat him on the back."

2003 The Washington Post Company

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Men 'set to outlive women'
Joanna Lumley as Patsy Stone in the BBC's Absolutely Fabulous
High levels of drinking and smoking may be to blame
Men could soon live longer than women, according to experts.

They believe high levels of smoking, drinking and stress may eventually take their toll on women's life spans.

The researchers believe that if current trends continue men born in this century will outlive their female counterparts.

This would represent a complete reversal of the current situation, where women have traditionally outlived men.

Long life

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that men who were aged 65 in 2000 could expect to live to 81, while women could expect to live to 84.

This latest research, which is published in the journal of the Chartered Insurance Institute, shows that the life expectancy of men has increased steadily in recent years.

Male mortality is improving much more quickly than female mortality
Tony Leandro,
Continuous Mortality Investigation Bureau

However, women's life expectancy has increased at a much slower rate and the gap between the two sexes is closing.

"Male mortality is improving much more quickly than female mortality," said Tony Leandro, of the Continuous Mortality Investigation Bureau at the Institute of Actuaries, who led the study.

He said the trend could see men outliving women in the years ahead.

"It is virtually impossible to make accurate projections, but one possible set of outcomes could see baby boys born in the late 21st century having greater life expectancy than baby girls."

Smoking rates

He suggested that high levels of smoking among women could be an important factor.

According to Cancer Research UK, almost one in four British adults smokes. This includes 40% of men and 35% of women between the ages of 25 and 34.

I don't think these figures really add up
Professor Martin Jarvis,
Cancer Research UK

However, figures suggest women are smoking more at a younger age and are less likely to give up than men.

"There is evidence that men are smoking less than women, particularly at younger ages and this may be a significant factor," Mr Leandro said.

That view was backed by Richard Willets of the Pension Annuity Friendly Society.

"In recent years, female mortality has not been improving as quickly as male mortality," he said.

"There are two main reasons for this. First, historic patterns of cigarette smoking have been very different for men and women over the past century.

"These patterns have had a long-lasting impact on mortality because the impact of smoking is so significant.

"Second a large proportion of recent improvements has been due to reduce deaths from heart disease.

"This has had much more impact on male rates of mortality because men have far higher rates of heart disease than women."

Stress at work

Adrian Galop of the Government Actuaries Department suggested that the fact that more women are now working may also be a factor.

"The effects of stress and more women in the workplace may also have contributed to the recent decline in the differential."

High stress levels have been linked to heart disease and stroke.

However, Professor Martin Jarvis of Cancer Research UK raised doubts about the findings.

"I don't think these figures really add up," he told BBC News Online.

"There are quite good studies available which show that even in populations where people do not smoke or drink women tend to live longer than men.

"This is really a biological effect. The male is more vulnerable and feebler throughout life from foetus right through to old age.

"The idea that men are going to start living longer than women doesn't add up."

Nevertheless, he said the findings should act as a warning for women.

"It highlights the impacts of health behaviours and particularly smoking," he said.

"It should act as a warning shot across women's bows. If they smoke like men they will be die like men."

Lesley King-Lewis, chief executive of the UK charity Action on Addiction, said: "Women are drinking more than they were ten years ago and this is bound to have an effect on women's life expectancy."

She added: "We are especially concerned about the increasing levels of binge drinking among young women as this has serious social and health repercussions."

The findings follow a warning by one of the government's top doctors earlier this month.

Dr Mac Armstrong, Scotland's chief medical officer, urged women to start living more healthily.

The report showed that 26.1% of women continued to smoke during pregnancy.

It also showed that one in four women binge drink, while 15% exceeded the weekly alcohol limit of 14 units in 1998, a rise of 2% from 1995.



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