'No world leader has done more for global health than President George Bush.'
Updated: Tuesday, Dec. 2, 5 p.m., CST
Inside a theater at the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and Capitol Hill, Saddleback pastor Rick Warren praised President Bush for his commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB.
Eight years ago, who could have imagined that George W. Bush would receive such an award? Bush is now inside his final 50 days as president. This particular event didn't make the front page of the New York Times. In fact, the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day also didn't make many front pages around the country.
How is this possible when there are about 40 million people with the virus and the daily death toll is around 8,000 per day? If this daily carnage happened in one day in a single major metro area, of course, there would be wall to wall coverage, 24/7. (Maybe we need to re-label the virus as a terrorist plot.) A few years ago, when I last sat down to figure out the daily death toll, it was about 5,300 per day.
Bottom line: We are still losing this war against HIV even though it is no small miracle that the taxpayer-funded program, PEPFAR, has now surpassed the goal of having 2 million people on AIDS-fighting drugs. This new reality saves lives, reducing the number of orphans and helps build up the health care infrastructure.
The Monday celebration in Washington started with a period and ended with a question mark. The period is the 20-year period of time since the first World AIDS Day in 1988. Yes, the achievements in treatment, care, and prevention are historic and important. The level of cooperation between groups has rarely been higher. HIV activist David Miller now knows Jesus.
These are all really significant things.
The question mark is this: What will the Obama administration do? Well for the moment, we do have many encouraging words from world leaders, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in support of the PEPFAR strategy.
But Obama in his own statement leaves us with this question from the Apostle Paul:
"If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?" President-elect Obama clearly calls for a commitment to "confront and defeat this disease once and for all."
Wonderful. But disease prevention must be front and center and that's where the tug of war over human sexual behavior and traditional morality is taking place. And, that's not over by a long shot.
Sunday, Nov. 30
Tomorrow, on Monday, Dec. 1, Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay will be holding a Global Civil Forum to award President Bush for his efforts in fighting HIV/AIDS worldwide, especially through the PEPFAR program.
Here's a few words from the press announcement:
Dr. Rick Warren will present President George W. Bush with the first "International Medal of PEACE" from the Global PEACE Coalition in recognition of his unprecedented contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases during the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health, to be held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.
At the Forum, Warren will engage both President Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush in candid conversation regarding past accomplishments and priorities moving forward regarding international health issues ? including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. President-elect Barack Obama will provide a video-taped message addressing the future of global health.
"No U.S. president or political leader has done more for global health than this Administration, which has raised the bar on America's role and responsibility for providing critical humanitarian assistance around the world," Warren said. "Over the past eight years, the President and Mrs. Bush have traveled the globe as they and their staffs have worked tirelessly to bring awareness and solutions to pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, and we are privileged to honor their efforts on World AIDS Day."
The "International Medal of PEACE" is given on behalf of the Global PEACE Coalition for outstanding contribution toward alleviating the five global giants recognized by the Coalition, including pandemic diseases, extreme poverty, illiteracy, self-centered leadership and spiritual emptiness. The Coalition is a network of churches, businesses and individuals cooperating together to solve humanitarian issues through the PEACE Plan, an effort to mobilize 1 billion Christians to Promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation.
During the Forum, Warren will recognize President Bush and his Administration for their implementation and success of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has provided $18.8 billion since 2003 to combat global HIV/AIDS. Congress has recently authorized an additional $48 billion for ongoing efforts to address this pandemic as well as tuberculosis and malaria over the next five years.
"As my wife Kay and I have been implementing the PEACE Plan in 68 developing countries, we have seen firsthand many of the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been saved through PEPFAR and the President's Malaria Initiative," Warren said. "I hope that this Forum will show the American people that our global health programs represent more than compassionate humanitarian efforts, but are also a strong, prudent pillar of American foreign policy."
The historic event will be appropriately held at the Newseum, a 250,000-square-foot museum of news, located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C. Dedicated to offering visitors an interactive experience of how and why news is made, the Newseum will make news in and of itself by hosting this Forum, which will be the first original broadcast inside its 535-seat theater.
Click here for the live video feed. The event is scheduled to begin 10:30 a.m. Eastern time.
I expect to be there (provided the weather at Midway airport doesn't get much worse) and will give a full report late on Monday night or Tuesday, Dec. 2.
If you have thoughts about Worlds AIDS Day or the work of evangelicals against the virus, post them here or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org