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The Balm In Gilead Joins Saddleback Church in Thanking President Bush for His Leadership on Addressing HIV and AIDS Around the World

RICHMOND, Va., Dec. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pernessa Seele, Founder/CEO of The Balm In Gilead, joined Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, his wife, Kay and approximately 300 faith and community leaders at a Civic Forum on Global Health for a World AIDS Day ceremony recognizing President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush's leadership in addressing HIV around the globe.

It was in his first State of the Union address that President Bush pledged to address HIV on a global scale and introduced the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest federal assistance program in history to address a single health issue. This week, President Bush reported that over 10 million people living with HIV have been affected by PEPFAR and over 2 million people have received antiretroviral drugs. These estimates have far exceeded the program's projections saving many lives.

In keeping with President Bush's global health agenda to create sustainable systems of which people of undeveloped countries will work to solve their own problems, The Balm In Gilead has been a strong faith partner in the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Over the past several years, the organization, based in both US and Tanzania, has partnered and developed the infrastructure of the national governing faith institutions -- Catholic, Protestant and Muslims -- in Tanzania to provide life-saving interventions to the people of that country. Today, because of PEPFAR funding, faith communities in Tanzania are providing care to over 50,000 orphans per year and have delivered HIV behavior change interventions to millions of persons. Last June, Tanzania's faith leaders, both Christian and Muslim, launched a national HIV testing campaign, Our Church/Mosque is Lighting the Way!! In February 2008, Mrs. Laura Bush visited one of the Balm In Gilead's Muslim PEPFAR funded programs, developed in partnership with the National Muslims Council of Tanzania.

As President Bush accepted his award and exited the stage, the audience was greeted with a video message from President-Elect Barack Obama. As the president-elect pledged his commitment to continuing the significant support of US dollars to global health around the world, he also pledged to work to address the tremendous crisis of AIDS in the United States.

Seele stated, "I began mobilizing faith communities to address HIV/AIDS when George H.W. Bush was president in 1989. I have been privileged to work on the AIDS agenda of both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush. Our country's leadership has truly come a long way in understanding and addressing the problem of AIDS in the world. I look forward to working with President-Elect Barack Obama and the development of a national agenda to fight AIDS in the United States, while continuing to do great work around the world."

The Balm In Gilead is a non-profit, international organization whose mission is to improve the health status of people of the African Diaspora by building the capacity of faith communities to address life-threatening diseases, especially HIV/AIDS.

SOURCE The Balm In Gilead
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