01 December 2008

World AIDS Day 2008

Today is World AIDS Day.

AIDS came to visit me in 1984 when my friend David Ballinger was diagnosed and died at the tender age of 24 years old. He was one of the early victims of the disease. He grew up a few miles from me and was a member of St. Luke's in Atascadero. Our youth groups used to do things together. David took his GED and moved to San Francisco when he was 17 years old. I had hardly heard of AIDS before I found out he had it. There were other friends who died from AIDS complications over the years, but David was the hardest on me - partly because he was the first of many. I can still see him doing a "Bette Davis" with a cigarette in his hand as he waved it all over like she did. God I miss him.

Please pray for and donate towards research. And go find a place that cares for the ill and who needs volunteers. Be a "Jesus" to someone.

Our Presiding Bishop released this letter:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The first day of December is marked as World AIDS Day, and has been observed since 1988. Episcopalians join billions of people around the world to remember the devastation caused by the AIDS pandemic over the past generation, and to recommit to ensuring a future without AIDS for generations still to come. As our church year begins, it is especially appropriate to remember, pray, and work together to alleviate the suffering inflicted by this disease and its consequences.

As Episcopalians, we understand that we are part of a body that has AIDS – both the Body of Christ and the larger body of the family of God. More than half of our worldwide Anglican Communion lives in countries destabilized by epidemic rates of HIV infection, including several dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Parish communities in the United States have been responding to HIV and AIDS for more than 25 years.

In the United States, this year's commemoration comes in a moment of transition for American democracy. A new President and new Congress will shape this nation's response to HIV/AIDS at home and around the world. Many significant challenges face America's leaders in the coming years.

We must find ways to build on successes in fighting HIV and AIDS in the developing world. American leadership since 2003 has brought life-saving treatment to more than 1.7 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (in contrast to 50,000 in 2002), while supporting more than 33 million counseling and testing sessions and providing prevention services for nearly 13 million pregnant women. Still, more than 6,000 people continue to die each day as a result of the pandemic, and infection rates in some of the hardest-hit places continue to grow. Earlier this year, Congress and the President pledged significantly increased funding, and renewed strategies, for the global fight against AIDS. It will be up to the new Congress and Administration to keep the promises that have been made by their predecessors.

The incoming Administration of President-elect Obama is soliciting suggestions from citizens for national priorities in the year ahead at www.change.gov. I urge all Episcopalians living in the United States to ask President-elect Obama and his Administration to make the fight against AIDS at home and around the world a priority, even in difficult economic times. The security and well-being of the world depends on health and healing for all. You can join your voice with those of other Episcopalians who will take action in the months and years ahead to advocate for strong U.S. responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic by signing up for the Episcopal Public Policy Network at www.episcopalchurch.org/eppn.

I commend to Episcopalians the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition, www.neac.org, a grassroots group that has been working in Episcopal communities for more than two decades to support caregivers, give guidance on prevention, and advocate for a more compassionate AIDS policy. In particular, I draw your attention to the online quiz NEAC has developed for Episcopal communities to commemorate this World AIDS Day.

Christians around the world marked the First Sunday of Advent yesterday as a season of hope and expectation, remembering that the "Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings" (Malachi 4:2). On this World AIDS Day, I pray that the God who tents with humanity will raise us up to work together to make the divine dream of healing and abundant life for all creation a reality – may your kingdom come, O Lord, and speedily.

Your servant in Christ,

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued this message:

"Our hope and our prayer today is that the excellent work that's done, not just in developing countries but here at home too, by the churches will continue and deepen and be strengthened by our prayer and our commitment," he said. "Recognizing that people living with HIV is us not them, whether it's leaders and congregations, congregations and 'outsiders' -- it's us. It's all of our business...Church leaders and church congregations taking responsibility for educating the wider public."

The Archbishop's video presentation on the AIDS crisis is available here.