Tuesday, December 2, 2008

World AIDS Day!

I know I'm a day late, but I wanted to acknowledge World AIDS day.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of World AIDS day. There have been huge advances in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the last two decades, but there is so much work to be done --
  • 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide
  • 2 million of those are innocent children
  • 1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV/AIDS
  • 11.6 million little children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS
  • 2.7 million people newly contracted this virus in 2007 alone.
This disease such strong stigmas and stereotypes connected with it. Many of these originate because of fear and ignorance. In my mind, this is akin to leprosy in Jesus' day. Here is a strong example of his response to this feared disease and those suffering with it.
While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." Luke 5:12-13 (italics added by me)
We should be responding to those with HIV/AIDS with the same kindness. Not that we can heal everyone who has this disease, but we are called to "touch" those around us in need, both figuratively and literally.

During college, I met a single mom with two small girls (ages one and three) who had recently learned that she had AIDS. In addition to this, she was heart-broken to learn that one of her girls also had HIV. The life expectancy of her daughter was only 18 years, if she was able to remain on the expensive treatments available in this country to slow the disease.

About once a month, a friend and I would go visit this woman and play with her girls. Mostly we went to give her a break from her mothering responsibilities, and to give the girls a change of pace. This went on for about two years.

I remember one person asking me whether I every touched this woman and her children. The question reflected his fear and lack of knowledge. I shared the story of the first time she hugged me. I was so moved that she would trust me with her children and care enough to open herself up to me in this way.

I have since lost touch with this friend, but her courage in the face of this situation changed my life. I am thankful for the chance to have known her. I am also thankful that in this country she was able to receive treatment and support that she and her young daughter could not have afforded on their own.

But in Sub-Sahara Africa, there are too many mothers and young children who do not get the treatment that could prolong their lives. And there are too many new cases of HIV/ AIDS every year that could have been prevented.

Please take a moment to learn more about HIV/AIDS.

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