Since 1988, December 1 has been designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as World AIDS Day, a time to raise awareness of the pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. The 2016 theme was “Leadership. Commitment. Impact.”
The Presbyterian AIDS Network (PAN), one of the networks of the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association, was established to not only educate churches but point out the injustices connected with fighting HIV/AIDS.
“This pandemic reveals the underbelly of injustice that plagues our global society: poverty and unequal distribution of resources, racism, sexism, xenophobia, child neglect and abuse,” said PAN Co-moderators Ann Jones and George Kerr in a letter to churches. “It is this soft underbelly that calls our members to continue their strong commitment to transform this pandemic.”
According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), prevention has stalled at an average level of 1.9 million new infections each year since 2010. There is no report of a significant drop. In addition, money from international sources has fallen dramatically.
“It is our wish that by 2020, 90 percent of our world’s people will know their status; 90 percent of all those living with HIV will received sustained therapy and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will enjoy viral suppression,” PAN’s letter states. “Eliminating discrimination, reducing inequalities, especially among women and girls, are paramount.”
The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness has issued an action alert urging Congress to maintain funding to fight the pandemic. Members of Congress must be held accountable to adequately fund domestic HIV programs that impact our most vulnerable citizens.
The alert urges Congress to restore proposed cuts, including those that would eliminate the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Special Projects of National Significance, the Title X Family Planning Program and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.
“Today, we pray for all people who are living with HIV. We remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses,” the statement reads. “We give thanks for the progress that has been made and ask God to give us strength and courage to stand up together to eliminate AIDS as a public health threat.”
Ecumenical advocates say many people are afraid of the stigma they encounter just by getting tested—a stigma the World Council of Churches (WCC) is hoping to lift with the campaign “Leading by Example: Religious Leaders and HIV Testing.” The campaign began with a morning prayer service at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland.
“To end HIV and AIDS, we have to overcome the stigma of HIV testing,” said Francesca Merico, HIV campaign coordinator for the WCC Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA). “By getting tested for HIV, you aren’t making a statement about morality—you’re taking care of your health.”
As of June 2016, less than half of the people living with HIV—18.2 million people—were receiving treatment, according to UNAIDS.
That month, the 222nd General Assembly (2016) approved an overture called “On Committing to Play an Active Part in the Global Response to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic.” The overture calls for increased global funding and requests that some of the funds be allocated to the support of faith-based organizations that provide public education on HIV and AIDS. This action builds on the policy “Becoming an HIV and AIDS Competent Church: Prophetic Witness and Compassionate Action” that was adopted by the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
PAN has produced a set of worship resources for AIDS awareness that can be used any time throughout the year.
Rick Jones, mission communications strategist, PC(USA)
Today’s Focus: Presbyterian AIDS Network (PAN)
Let us join in prayer for:
Presbyterian AIDS Network Leadership Team
Ann Jones, co-moderator
George Kerr, co-moderator
Emily Rose Proctor, associate pastor, Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church
Audra Cain Grogg, volunteer assistant director of Camp Heart to Heart
Donna Stroup, senior advisor to UNAIDS and WHO
Timothy Jessen, instructor, Ivy Tech Community College
Bob Schminkey, chair of the PAN Advisory Committee
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
God, you are the restorer, the healer, and the reconciler of all people. Revive our hearts so that we may see everyone as a child in your kingdom. We pray for those specifically struggling with HIV. Provide them not only with medication but with relationships that bring them hope, restoration, and your love. Amen.