December first is World AIDS Day. In the nearly four decades since we have learned about HIV, more than 35 million people have died of the virus, making it one of the most destructive pandemics the world has ever known. On World AIDS Day, we remember those who have died of the disease, we demonstrate support for those living with HIV and AIDS and we re-commit to combatting HIV and AIDS. Perhaps most importantly of all, we pledge to end the stigma that is still attached to a diagnosis of the virus.
UCAN is the United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network, providing Faith-based leadership for ending the HIV and AIDS epidemic. According to the UCAN website* “Much progress has been made since we first learned about HIV more than 35 years ago and we have made it through some very difficult times. We remember with thanksgiving those we have lost to this disease and for those who grieve, we pray God’s peace and comfort. Although medical advances have made it possible to prevent HIV from attacking the immune system, saving millions of lives, we recognize that we have not sufficiently scaled up our responses to meet the need for prevention, treatment, care and support for all those living with and affected by HIV.”
One of the difficulties in fighting this disease has been, and continues to be, discrimination and stigma. With treatment, people can live healthy lives with AIDS. The first step to getting treatment is to get tested and diagnosed, but for many, stigma is a major barrier to testing. Everyone can help knock down that barrier.
Today’s scripture reminds us of all that we do not know. Jesus tells us that in most important ways, we do not know what the future will bring. But one thing we do know is that we can help end the stigma of getting help for this disease. We can all be tested for HIV and AIDS, even if we do not consider ourselves at risk. Getting tested is one way that each of us can be involved in combatting and eradicating HIV and AIDS.
First Sunday of Advent–Prayer for Hope
O come, O come Emmanuel! We look at the world and all its brokenness, and we are too often tempted to give up. Grant us the audacity of hope. Save us from easy cynicism and despair. Remind us that while none of us can do all things, all of us can do some things. Place before us the things we can do, and give us the courage to do them. Amen.
*UCAN Call to Action. Accessed July 24, 2019. https://www.ucc.org/ucan_call_to_action