November 30, 2008
Saddleback's Warren lauds Bush and PEPFAR program as treatment goal is surpassed.
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.