Today is World Aids Day. It is especially fitting to remember family, friends, and those people we might not even have known, who have died of HIV/Aids. On this day, I remember my first close friend who died of Aids, Chelsea Fretland Williams - in 1986, one year after his diagnosis. In those mid-80s years, before hospice, after several stays in hospitals, people would go home to die. The diagnosis then was indeed a death sentence (Now more testing is available and treatment advances make HIV more manageable.) Chelsea's family in Alabama disowned him, his brother and mother would not even see him when he was close to death. So it was his small group of friends who became his primary caregivers and parishioners at Palmer Church in Houston who sat with him as death neared and organised his memorial service at the church.
The full text of the Presiding Bishop's statement for World AIDS Day is available here. She writes,
In the United States, HIV/AIDS has lost much of its visibility in the past decade with many Americans growing complacent about the threat of the disease. It is not always immediately obvious who in our communities is suffering from HIV/AIDS, and the stigma of diagnosis further isolates and alienates those who need our love and support. As Christians, our ministry to those living with HIV/AIDS in our communities is more essential than ever. World AIDS Day is an excellent opportunity to evaluate the ways in which your congregation and community are welcoming and serving those living with the disease.The Archbishop of Canterbury has released his World Aids Day video. It highlights the plight of expectant mothers who are HIV positive and the support they need to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies:
President Obama announced an enormously encouraging initiative, Act Against AIDS, earlier this year as a five-year, $45 million effort aimed at enhancing AIDS awareness within the United States. While the initial funding is small, this initiative is a much needed response to the diminishing public awareness of the AIDS crisis in our own communities.
Religious Dispatches reports here on the role churches are playing.
Today is a good day to get tested, as well. Vermonters can learn how by going to the site Get Tested Vermont.
Information is power.
Knowing your HIV status allows you to make important decisions about your health. People who know their status can get life-saving medical care and better protect their sexual partners and those they care about.
If you are negative learn how to stay that way.