AIDS/HIV has been part of my word since 1985; when I became part of the LGBTQ community. Since the beginning of the epidemic in 1981, more than 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 35 million people have died of HIV. Globally, 36.7 million [34.0–39.8 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2015. By 2014 young people 13-24 years of age, accounted for more than 1 in 5 new HIV diagnoses in the United States; young black/African-American, Hispanic, Latino, and gay and bisexual males are especially affected. In addition there is an alarming increase among women of color. While the HIV epidemic has not had a broad impact on the general U.S. population, it has greatly affected the economically disadvantaged in many urban areas. Globally 36.7 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS.
- Of the 36.7 million people, 1.8 million were children under age of 15 years old.
- An estimated 2.1 million individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2016. This includes 150,000 children. Most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. (according tot he CDC)
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is not just a matter of statistics. Its effects are impoverishing people and wreaking havoc upon their bodies and spirits. Many who suffer do so in rejection and isolation. It’s not just a gay mans disease. It reveals the tragic consequences of personal actions which directly harm others, or of negligence which opens people to additional risk of disease, death and poverty .
The pandemic is having profound consequences for family and community life. In addition to causing the illness and death of members of the most productive age groups. In some societies whole communities are weakened by the pain and disruption HIV/AIDS brings to families; often killing one or both parents and leaving orphaned and sick children behind with no means of support. The oldest child is generally forced to assume the rule of parent and chief breadwinner for their younger siblings.
As a non-Christian I mourned the death of friends and associates impacted by HIV/AIDS. I advocated for community education on safe sex practices and taught many classes on Sexually transmitted diseases.I believed in abstinence and monogamous relationships. As committed follower of Christ I still promote abstinence and sex within a committed marriage between one man and one woman. I have been a part of the Christian community long enough to know the subjects of sex and sexuality are often overlooked because many Christians are uncomfortable about the topics and most often filled with shame or a lack of information.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic needs to stir Christians to enter into the suffering of others, to stand beside them and be the hands and feet of Jesus. The Church cannot exclude anyone who needs Christ; this includes those affected by HIV/AIDS. I understand that HIV/AIDS raises issues, about human sexuality, vulnerability and mortality. However it is imperative that we learn to face the issues together and work towards a common understanding of the basic questions. and needs and respond Biblically to them. The Body of Christ must become better informed, more pro-active, and be faithful witnesses to the gospel of reconciliation in our own lives, local communities, nations and in the world at large. Teresa of Avila reminds us, “God has no other hands than ours to tend the wounds of a broken world.” May we prayerfully consider what role we will undertake to minister to those impacted by the worldwide HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Thanks for following my journey,