Become knowledgeable, become active:
The Global HIV/AIDS Crisis Today
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has become one of the world’s most serious health and development challenges:
- 33.4 million are currently living with HIV/AIDS.
- More than 25 million people have died of AIDS worldwide since the first cases were reported in 1981.
- In 2008, 2 million people died due to HIV/AIDS, and another 2.7 million were newly infected.
- While cases have been reported in all regions of the world, almost all those living with HIV (97%) reside in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most people living with HIV or at risk for HIV do not have access to prevention, care, and treatment, and there is still no cure.
- The HIV epidemic not only affects the health of individuals, it impacts households, communities, and the development and economic growth of nations. Many of the countries hardest hit by HIV also suffer from other infectious diseases, food insecurity, and other serious problems.
- Despite these challenges, there have been successes and promising signs. New global efforts have been mounted to address the epidemic, particularly in the last decade. Prevention has helped to reduce HIV prevalence rates in a small but growing number of countries and new HIV infections are believed to be on the decline. In addition, the number of people with HIV receiving treatment in resource poor countries has increased 10-fold since 2002, reaching an estimated 4 million by 2008.
The Church would do well to continue it’s growth in overcoming prejudice, fear, ignorance and judgmental condemnation in regard to the plight of those living with HIV/AIDS. For too long we have rejected those who are “unclean” and allowed our fear to overrule our compassion. I recall Jesus’ interaction with a leper in Matthew 8, and suggest that this model of care be adopted by the Church. The short account is as follows:
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
(Mat 8:1-4 ESV)
A couple of thoughts from this text:
- The leper defied social norms to get to the Person who could help the most. I would have you think of our church. Would someone inflicted with the HIV/AIDS virus feel comfortable stepping in our doors to receive care, counsel or comfort? Would they expect condemnation? Could they receive help?
- Jesus defied social norms to provide comfort to the person who needed it the most. This passage has intrigued me from my first reading of it. Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. Human touch. In times of deepest physical, emotional and spiritual need, a compassionate touch is often what is needed first. A demonstration of genuine care and interest in the person, not the malady, would be a great start for our church in care of those marginalized by society.
Keeping proper perspective in our interaction with those who need both physical healing and spiritual healing will only come as a result of being filled with the compassion of Jesus Christ. Those who have experienced his grace and mercy should be on the front-line, being “Christ-like”, reaching out and touching those with the greatest need. The Church should be the forerunner of care and comfort, but sadly, it seems we have settled for a castle theology instead of a Kingdom focus.