As World AIDS Day draws nearer, I wish to encourage you all to making a positive difference in whatever you can.
Globally, World AIDS is observed on December 1st. It is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show our support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. Wearing a red ribbon is one simple way to identify with this cause.
Getting to ZERO has been the theme set by the United Nations from 2011-2015
- Zero new infection
- Zero stigma and discrimination
- Zero AIDS related deaths
Worldwide, it is estimated that 34 million people are living with HIV. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS related illnesses, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
In 2014, there were roughly 2 million new HIV infections, 220,000 of which were among children who were infected via their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. 51% of all people living with HIV do not know that they have the virus.
Despite education and the scientific advances made in HIV treatment, stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.
FAITH IN ACTION
As faith communities and individuals we can contribute to the solutions in some of these ways:
- Engaging in conversations on the topic in our homes, schools, workplaces, faith communities, neighbourhoods, social media and every space we can think of. Make the space!
- Know our HIV status by getting tested. If HIV negative, do all that is necessary remain HIV negative. If positive, do all to prevent the spread of HIV by using the required precautions.
- Antiretroviral treatments improve the quality of life. These medications are available free in many countries including T&T. Early detection and intervention will contribute to a prolonged life. Compliance is critical to ones wellbeing and longevity.
- Many are living with HIV and need to feel loved, supported and accepted. We are to demonstrate genuine concern and treat others as we want to be treated.
- We each can achieve the goal of getting to zero by knowing the facts and taking responsibility in doing our part.
- Most of all, practicing our faith by putting the scriptural teaching into practice, praying, encouraging, counseling, being a friend, helping in practical ways, being aware of our own assumptions and biases and using Jesus as our example in relating to people and situations.
OCCUPYING THE SPACE
At our services leading up to World AIDS Day, as spiritual leaders or disciples/followers, we can encourage our spiritual leaders, to include an aspect in the services to highlight the cause. These can be done in numerous ways to educate, increase awareness, active community involvement, and reducing the prejudices that are associated with HIV.
These can take the form of wearing a red ribbon and explain what is signifies, lighting a candle and symbolism associated (giving light, remembrance, keeping the message alive), sharing figures and facts in terms of people, sharing stories, addressing the issues in the messages/ sermons, drama, spoken word, video clips, song, dance, poetry, giving the opportunity to those who would know or have known someone with HIV or would themselves share their journey (giving specific guidelines in terms of time frame, content, context, etc.). We all have our story that we can share to bring hope and inspire life in God.
Invite persons with the experience and knowledge to share. Have educational materials such as brochures, HIV pins, and other attractions to give away.
For those who would have taken the Channels of Hope training or similar training, share aspects of what you learned and relate it to the scriptures and our duty.
Please feel free to share your ideas and your experiences to strengthen and encourage each other! And use every avenue, every space, every medium, every opportunity to let your voices be heard – audibly, visually with you mind, heart and hands!
God bless you.
Please share widely. Every grace and blessing,