Let’s talk about HIV.
Maybe you’re thinking “What? HIV? I thought this blog was about racial justice.” or “Isn’t that issue over now?”
But consider this: as of July 2015, African Americans made up 13.3% of the US Population.1 Yet African Americans made up 48% of HIV infections in 2015.2 Latino folks made up 17% of the US population and 24% of HIV infections. Similar statistical trends hold true for other minority communities in the US.
This, siblings in Christ, is an injustice.
It is an injustice that black and brown communities do not have equal access to education about HIV, HIV testing, or sustained healthcare. It is an injustice that black Americans are over eight times more likely to test positive for HIV than white Americans. It is an injustice that this reality means that many people in this country get to believe that “HIV is over” when it is clearly not.
Not only is HIV not over, friends, and it is threatening resurgence now more than ever before. The US government is rescinding aid to those suffering from HIV both domestically and abroad. The new budget proposed by the current administration outlines cuts to Medicaid and the CDC that would be devastating for HIV patients in the U.S. along with cuts to the Global AIDS Fund and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Initiative (the latter enacted by President W. Bush) that would leave communities around the world without HIV education or treatment.3
The risk is again growing, especially among communities of color. The U.S. government’s commitment to care for HIV-positive citizens is waning. Our church must step up.
The ELCA outlines its own call to fight the HIV epidemic in the ELCA Strategy on HIV and AIDS, adopted by the Churchwide Assembly in 20094. This Strategy acknowledges the realities of HIV in the U.S. and around the world, the church’s shortcomings in addressing these realities in the past, and our renewed commitment to walking alongside all who are affected by HIV – including disproportionately affected communities of color. The Strategy calls us to act through education, theological reflection, worship, and advocacy to ensure access to HIV resources for all.
I work as the Program Associate for this Strategy, and want to offer myself and the ELCA as a resource for you and your communities of faith as you wrestle with issues of healthcare, racial justice, and faith. Over the coming weeks and months I look forward to working with the ELCA Racial Justice program and with you all, communities across the ELCA, to tackle these issues together.
So how can you get involved?
- Be sure to check our Facebook page for updated resources and information: https://www.facebook.com/ELCAHIVandAIDS/
- Join us!
This year, our church will intentionally reflect on the call we accepted in the Strategy on HIV/AIDS on three separate days:
- On June 27th, National HIV Testing Day – we encourage all ELCA members to lead by example in their communities and get tested for HIV, and to talk about HIV with their families and congregations.
- On September 10th, “God’s Work, Our Hands” Sunday, we encourage ELCA congregations to spend this intentional day of service reaching out to organizations that serve People Living with HIV.
- On December 1, World AIDS Day, we encourage all ELCA congregations to take time to learn more about the HIV epidemic in the US and around the world, and to incorporate HIV-specific language into their Sunday worship services.
- Contact the ELCA Strategy Team with any questions, ideas, or for additional resources: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:26 that “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
Our HIV-positive friends in Christ are suffering. Disproportionately they are poor or black or brown or LGBTQ+ or women. Our church will not be silent about this injustice. We will pray for healing and we will get to work to advocate with and for People Living with HIV/AIDS together.
Program Associate, Strategy on HIV/AIDS