Today is “World AIDS day”, which doesn’t mean much to a lot of people. I don’t fault anyone for that. But since my life was touched by HIV years ago, this is a day of reflection for me. It’s also a day that I hope to bring encouragement to Christians in “the church”.
You don’t often hear much about AIDS inflicted people, unless you’re talking about orphans in Africa who’ve lost both parents to the disease or about “those” with a lifestyle that would “cause” such things. But AIDS is very real here in America. Did you know that 14,000 Americans die with AIDS every year? There are also about 56,000 Americans who will be infected with HIV this year.
How should the church respond? Because, surely, we SHOULD respond.
Are people with HIV/AIDS welcome at your church? I sure hope so! At our church, I’ll be the first (of many) in line to welcome anyone who wants to disclose that information. It’s important to educate yourself on the real facts about HIV/AIDS and how it is transmitted. Often, our fear just comes from a lack of knowledge.
We know children living with this disease who are doing so well! Reducing their viral load by receiving the proper medication has been the most significant factor to their success. Did you know that the pharmaceutical company Glasko-Smith Kline offers anti-retrovirals (ART) to HIV ravaged areas in Africa at cost? They are continually working toward advancement of these medications. If you live here in America, you have countless University hospitals and others who research and provide top-notch care for HIV/AIDS patients.
The mission of our church as well as our own family’s mission is to connect people to Jesus for life change. God has changed ours so graciously, that we can’t help but share him with others. We truly believe that while living with an illness such as HIV or AIDS comes with tremendous obstacles, there is hope in a life lived with Jesus.
I remember holding the hand of a woman who had been diagnosed HIV+ just moments earlier. I still remember the tears streaming down her cheeks as screams and cries echoed against the walls of her hospital room. It was sobering and heartbreaking. But, considering that I would go through that very experience less than a year later, it was gracious of the Lord to give to me. I also remember seeing her a month later when she told me, “Thank you for being there with me. I’m going to be ok.”
Like Jesus, we have the opportunity to be his hands and feet; to touch those who desperately need to be touched.
Within minutes of the call from my doctor who told me I was HIV+ in 2005, I felt like a leper and I feared for the tiny baby growing inside of me. I wonder how many of you would be afraid of me, if God hadn’t changed a Western Blot positive HIV diagnosis into the greatest miracle of my life? Would I be welcome to eat dinner in your home? Could I hold your children?
It’s worth asking yourself those hard questions, because if someone ever walks into your life faced with this disease, I want you to be able to love them as Christ would. Check out these helpful links:
some statistics above from: http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/hiv-infection-rates-rising/Content?oid=2285776