PASTORAL LETTER FOR WORLD AIDS DAY 2013
Today we are recognizing World AIDS Day. As Christians, we are called to personally extend our care to the growing number of families who are infected and affected by this epidemic/pandemic.
Three years ago the CDC reported that 68 persons were dying each day due to AIDS-related illnesses and opportunistic infections. This number continues to grow because so many people, especially those in the African American community, are not being tested or receiving needed medications. Sadly, it is the youth between the ages of 16 and 30 who are most often becoming infected due to the lack of sex education in schools, churches, and homes.
Beloved, there are some questions we must face. Why is HIV spreading so rapidly among us? I believe that one of the main reasons is a general lack of understanding about the causes of the disease and the widespread discrimination and stigma experienced by people who are HIV-positive. Because of this, many people do not know when they need to be tested, or because of a fear of a positive diagnosis, they would rather not know than be treated. Secondly, we must ask why only 5% of HIV/AIDS programs are funded and supported by the mainline African American church. Do we avoid helping affected persons because we have persuaded ourselves that this disease does not need our attention? The fact is we must do more. HIV positive persons are the neighbors that Jesus taught us to reach out to and love.
It is my prayer that Myrtle will become a place where HIV positive people can feel welcomed, get counseling, receive referrals for testing, and be educated about help. Likewise, it is also my dream that sex education will not only be reactive but also proactive with the inclusion of sex education curriculum that promotes condom usage and safe intimate practices. As a knowledgeable congregation, we must continue to encourage the appreciation of human sexuality, acceptance, spirituality and morality. We must continue to equip the pulpit and pew with the knowledge to bring hope, healing and reconciliation to all who are infected and affected by HIV.
Jesus is our example. His life teaches us to seek out and to help those most in need. He told us “I have come that they may have life, life in all its fullness.” Jesus depends on us to carry out his mission today. We offer our special prayer and blessing for all who are infected and affected by HIV or AIDS, and pledge our cooperation and support in the efforts that must be made to stop this epidemic and to care for the thousands who are already suffering so much.
Reverend Brandon Thomas Crowley, MDiv, STM