Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day

I want to say that I don't personally know anyone struggling with HIV or AIDS, but I assume I don't. I could very well come into daily contact with someone(s) who have the disease and know it or who haven't yet been diagnosed.

I have never forgotten the first time had a strong reaction to the reality of AIDS. In 2008, I was reading Bryce Courtenay's book, April Fool's Day,  about his son's struggle with HIV/AIDS. His son was a hemophiliac and contracted the disease through blood transfusions. Bryce detailed the frustration of dealing with politicians who wanted to stop research into what became identified as AIDS as a way to punish homosexuals, who were presumed to be the only sufferers of the disease. Courtenay lays bare his own struggles, confusion and fear about his son's struggles, as well as tangentially touching on the political issues around the diagnosis and the way his son, Damon, is treated in hospitals because of prejudices and misunderstandings about AIDS.

It's easy to roll your eyes at World AIDS Day or even to toss off a prayer, but to keep on thinking it doesn't affect you personally.

But if you take seriously, at all, the truth that we are all the body of Christ, then you must truly absorb the fact that some of the members are dying. That there is dis-ease in the body caused, in part, by AIDS.

It's true that the spread of the disease is, in some cases, caused by sexual contact. But that sexual contact has innocent victims. Wives from husbands and husbands from wives. Mothers to children. Hemophiliacs and others receiving transfusions. Uninfected children who are orphaned by infected parents. The list goes on.

If we allow "condoms" to be the last word on AIDS prevention, we do a disservice to all people and to the body of Christ. We allow the disease, rampant and painful, to be cast into a sexual ghetto, wherein sufferers are "getting what they deserve". On World AIDS Day, we are called to shine the light of Christ's love into the reality of suffering due to this pandemic, to ponder our own reactions and to seek to support those missions and research facilities that are genuinely attempting to alleviate the suffering and stem the tide of this pandemic.

George W. Bush, former U.S. president, had a profound editorial in the Washington Post today. Among other comments, he urges current politicians to take the fight against AIDS to heart:

We still hope for an AIDS vaccine. In the meantime, there are millions on treatment who cannot be abandoned. And the progress in many African nations depends on the realistic hope of new patients gaining access to treatment. Why get tested if AIDS drugs are restricted to current patients? On AIDS, to stand still is to lose ground.
I am happily out of the political business. But I can offer some friendly advice to members of Congress, new and old. A thousand pressing issues come with each day. But there are only a few that you will want to talk about in retirement with your children. The continuing fight against global AIDS is something for which America will be remembered. And you will never regret the part you take.

Indeed, that message goes to all of us who follow Christ. We are called to prayerful action today (and all days). Today, let us pray for those who are suffering and for those who have yet to be diagnosed, for those who have been orphaned, widowed or lost friends and family, for those who are researching and for those who are on the frontlines of treatment, for those who wish to stop the research and for those who wish to hide from the truth. Let us pray that we, who are not suffering, will have the courage and the wisdom to bring awareness to the fight against AIDS and to use all the tools we have been given to bring a measure of healing to Christ's own body. Amen. 


LoieJ said...

In reality, all of God's children are dying. When and how varies. It is really too bad that it has been all to easy to "other-ize" AIDS and assume that a number of people brought this on themselves. [Well, in spite of all the overweight people in this country, I think we also do this with obesity.]

As Christians we need always to identify with the downtrodden and the sick, etc. They could be us. And our time will come, in one way or another. We ask forgiveness as we forgive others. We could also ask for compassion from others as we have shown it to others.

I remember many years ago, when AIDS was fairly new in the news, the state epidemiologist of this state talked about his aunt who died of AIDS. She was a nun in California. I don't know the details, but she wasn't thought to have engaged in any risky behavior.

And my friend had restrictions on her health insurance because she had received blood transfusions with her deliveries, before blood was tested for AIDS. She was told that she could test positive at any time up to ten years after those births.

Perhaps we need to take a good look at Jesus' words when he debunks the cause of the man's blindness.

George W. Bush was a strong leader in the fight against AIDS is is well remembered in Africa for this. I'm glad you linked to his editorial. Thanks.

annettesobservations said...

I have had what I consider the honor of having interviewed and written about HIV/AIDS patients many years ago when the political fur was really flying furiously about the cause and transmission of this disease. The unlikely venue was a retreat for HIV/AIDS patients hosted by the NC Southern Baptist Convention. The impetus for the retreat was an employee of the Convention, whose father had contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion. The overwhelming number of retreat attendees had contracted HIV or developed AIDS as a result of poor lifestyle choices. They referred to themselves as "Positive People," and they took the horror of their disease and turned it into a testimony of faith. I have also been in Bible studies with those who have full-blown AIDS. In each of these situations, I have been overwhelmed by the strong awareness of the presence of G-d and the love of Christ.