Today is World AIDS Day. I found out about it this morning through a feature in the Chicago Tribune. In all honesty, I’m troubled to admit that the AIDS epidemic isn’t an issue I think about often. I looked up a few statistics on the UNAIDS World Aids Day Report 2011 and found both encouraging and disheartening information: globally, about 34 million people are living with the HIV virus, about 2.7 million new cases were reported and 1.8 million people died of related illnesses last year. However, new therapy treatments seem to be working. People diagnosed with HIV are living longer and fewer people are dying from the disease (unaids.org).
When I read the headline, one of the controversies often surrounding the disease came to mind…you know what I’m talking about, right? Contraception vs. abstinence and are the use of condoms Biblical?, which is where I thought the Tribune article was going. So, I was both encouraged and refreshed when it took a different approach: people are more important than the debate. The Rev. Pat Lee is quoted saying,
I try to imitate what I see Jesus doing in the Gospels—meeting people where they are without judgment and lifting them to keep improving and move closer and work toward the ideal”
The ideal he mentions is abstinence but his point is that Jesus cares for people no matter our sin or affliction.
This is a time of year when Christians are celebrating the anticipation of Christ coming into the world. Lee describes it as “a time of watching and waiting and meditating on life and death.” Jesus came to walk along side and love all of us, which I’m constantly challenged by because I fail over and over again to care for and love others like Jesus does and as the Bible tells me to (Romans 13:7-9).
I don’t know very much about the AIDS epidemic or the ways it impacts individuals and their families. So, I’ve been thinking about a right step forward today: for me that is awareness, education and prayer.
Lord, there may be people reading this right now whose life has been touched by the HIV virus; bring them comfort, healing. I pray for a cure for sufferers and for them and their loved ones to draw near to you during this period of waiting. Guide the caregivers of those who are suffering with wisdom and strength. And if you bring someone into my life who has this painful virus, or any sick help me to know how to love them as your son does, without fear and judgment. Amen.