This year’s theme: know your status
by Stephanie Caudill | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Saturday marks the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, and Presbyterians are encouraged to participate as part of Presbyterian HIV/AIDS Awareness. This year’s theme is “know your status.”
“Jesus mandated us to care for the sick and love one another,” said Ann Jones, Presbyterian AIDS Network (PAN) co-moderator. “AIDS awareness is so important because there are still many barriers to wholeness.”
Jones recommends incorporating a liturgy, prayers and music that reflect compassion and justice for those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in your congregation’s worship service. Other suggestions include holding a community-wide AIDS Awareness Day and HIV testing, setting up a display about AIDS at your local library and tying red ribbons around downtown poles and trees.
“Barriers must be broken to reduce stigma and update laws and provide people with adequate treatment,” Jones said. “In the U.S., less than half of those infected now receive proper treatment. We must advocate for adequate funding and support AIDS [prevention] work both locally and globally.”
For years, PAN has been working to encourage congregations to show compassion to people in their communities infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. A mission toolkit is available for PC(USA) congregations interested in responding to the call. Pastors, mission and outreach committees, sessions, youth group leaders and Christian educators can use these resources to better understand HIV/AIDS, find out how to support people who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and see why they should act locally and internationally to prevent the resurgence of infections.
Elizabeth Turk, a mission co-worker who serves at the invitation of the Church for Jesus Christ in Madagascar, said there used to be “a lot of energy behind fighting AIDS,” but not anymore.
“For many nations in Africa and elsewhere, it is still a major crisis,” Turk said. “Many people do not have access to care and treatment. For the people living with AIDS and those actively fighting its impact, AIDS is not something they can forget. It is an everyday reality. By responding with prayer and support, congregations do their part to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
According to 2017 data from the World Health Organization, HIV continues to be a major global public health issue. More than 35 million people have died from the disease and approximately 36.9 million people are currently living with HIV.
WHO estimates that 75 percent of people living with HIV know their status. Between 2000-17, new HIV infections fell by 36 percent. HIV-related deaths fell by 38 percent, with 11.4 million lives saved globally due to antiretroviral therapy.
According to WHO, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) targets the immune system and weakens people’s defense against infections and some types of cancer. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which can take two to 15 years to develop. AIDS is defined by the development of certain cancers, infections and other severe clinical manifestations.
New technologies to help people test themselves are being introduced around the world, with many countries implementing self-testing as an additional option to encourage HIV diagnosis. HIV self-testing is an initial test and requires further testing by a health worker.
Stephanie Caudill is Mission Associate for Resources and Promotion, Equipping for Mission Involvement, Presbyterian World Mission.
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