Are we answering the call to respond to HIV/AIDS?

Posted on December 4, 2008 by ELCA World Hunger

David Creech mentioned in his post this week that we would be featuring entries from young adults who attended the Interational AIDS Conference in Mexico City this summer. Here is the first.

It is written by Joni Ricks, who is currently a 2nd year doctoral student in Epidemiology at University of California Los Angeles. She is also an Associate Member of Lord of Light Lutheran Church.

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Christians are often comfortable relating with certain groups of people that do not challenge our Christian values or make us feel uneasy. Historically global challenges such as poverty, homelessness, and diseases were acceptable and were seen as opportunity for service.

Today HIV and AIDS (a disease associated with issues that Christian organizations have been dealing with for decades) creates segregation, contrary to the Scriptures call -‘We should be the first ones to combat the epidemic’. Christians have shied away from this mission. HIV and AIDS is not a ‘comfortable disease’ for many Christians. We increasingly build walls with people affected by HIV and AIDS, yet we gather together every Sunday to celebrate Christ’s unconditional love for us.

The apostle Matthew invited Jesus and other disciples to dinner at his home; together with tax collectors and other ‘disreputable sinners’. Pharisees referred to tax collectors as “scum” and wondered why anyone would debase themselves to be seen with “such” type of people. We similarly brand people living with HIV and AIDS as ‘sinners’. Christians are called to love sinners and not the sin. We are all saved by faith in Jesus Christ. And I often wonder why we Christians perceive ourselves to be better than those whose lifestyles are not what we would consider acceptable.

In the United States we are comfortable ministering and ‘donating’ to people halfway across the world but ignore those living with the disease in our own locality. How often do we think of offering services to a homeless shelter? Or bother to make eye contact with people who seeks our help on the street?

We are created in God’s image hence are co-creators. Our actions and deeds ought to reflect Christ’s teachings. But how are we to show the love of Christ if we refuse to minister to people in need? We must strive to be the people of God we are chosen to be and that will only be demonstrated with our un-conditional love to people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.

-Joni Ricks

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