President George W. Bush was honored on the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day today, with the “International Medal of PEACE” given by Dr. Rick Warren on behalf of the Global PEACE Coalition during the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health. The award, given in recognition of the President’s efforts and contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases, came on the heels of the President’s announcement that his President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief had fulfilled its commitment to support treatment for 2 million people ahead of schedule.
“When we got started, there were 50,000 people getting anti-retrovirals in all sub-Sahara Africa, and we set a goal of 2 million people by five years,”President Bush said. “Today, we are able to announce that we are over 2 million in less than five years.”
“No man in history – no world leader – has ever done more for global health than President George W. Bush, and I think we need to recognize that,” said Pastor Warren.
“PEPFAR is a part of a comprehensive strategy to deal with AIDS both at home and abroad,” President Bush stated. “The intention of PEPFAR was never to pirate money away from a domestic program but the intention of PEPFAR is to build on what we have learned at home.”
Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Warren were invited to join the discussion after both men acknowledged that their spouses were catalysts behind their great interest in global health. Mrs. Bush shared stories of the people who touched her life on her three independent trips to Africa and experiences traveling the globe with her husband on behalf of PEPFAR and other initiatives with their daughters, Jenna and Barbara.
“Nothing makes a parent more proud than when their child becomes a contributor,” said President Bush. “I suspect that if people got to see what our girls got to see, they would want to help save lives, too. One of the real challenges is to make sure that American consciences are raised and people understand the plight of their fellow citizens.
President and Mrs. Bush discussed the importance of ongoing funding for PEPFAR because of its importance to other needs around the world.
Pastor Warren concluded the Forum, which took place at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., by emphasizing that though much has been done, there is a lot more to be done. “My challenge to you is, ‘What are you going to do?’ Warren said. “Will you say, ‘That was nice and that’s good, and I’m glad our country’s doing it.’ Or will you say, ‘I’m in.’ Because it’s not just a matter of a nice thing to do; it’s a matter of life or death. It’s a matter of the fact that when people are out hurting and we do nothing, our love vanishes and it’s all about that.”
Founded in 1980 by the Warrens, Saddleback Church is located in Lake Forest, Calif. With an average weekly attendance of 22,000, it is one of the largest churches in America. For additional information about the Saddleback HIV/AIDS Initiatives, visit www.HIVandTheChurch.com or www.RwandaHealthcare.com.
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