Rick Warren Works with US Senators to Combat AIDS

Although megachurch pastor Rick Warren didn't care much about AIDS for 20 years, he told listeners at the 2006 Global Summit on AIDS and the Church that through his wife, he was able to open his eyes to something new.

|PIC1|Kay Warren's compassion led the couple to travel to several countries in Africa four years ago to learn about the disease. Since then, the Warrens, who founded Saddleback Church in Southern California, have worked to raise awareness in their church and among Christians worldwide with the ambitious goal of eradicating the contractible immune deficiency.

Warren told conference listeners he can't believe he was "so blind to something this big," adding that it makes the bubonic plague look "like a picnic."

According to studies, more than 40 million people worldwide have AIDS, and experts project that by 2010 a total of 100 million people will have carried HIV.

To get the church involved, the Warrens invited AIDS experts, policymakers, religious leaders, medical researchers and ambassadors to their church for a two-day summit headlined by Illinois' Democratic Senator Barack Obama and Kansas' Republican Senator Sam Brownback, with video presentations from Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates.

The event, attended by more than 2,000 people - many of them AIDS-fighters themselves - featured training sessions and seminars, plus free AIDS testing for anyone who came. Warren himself, to provide an example to other Christian leaders, was tested for HIV a year ago, along with 60 of his staff members. Obama and Brownback also agreed to undergo a public AIDS test Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.

"We've got to work together where we can work together," Warren said before introducing Sen. Barack Obama, who supports many issues Warren opposes including abortion and, in the case of HIV/AIDS, condom distribution as a way to stop the spread of the disease that has killed millions.

"We will never totally agree with everyone, I don't even always agree 100 percent with my wife," he said. "But we can work together with anyone who is willing to work on this issue."

Both senators cited their faith in Jesus Christ as a moving force in their choice to combat HIV/AIDS and both are willing to cross partisan lines to do so.

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