ELCA NEWS SERVICE
November 30, 2012
ELCA, Episcopal bishops unite with a goal for a human race free of AIDS
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- On World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, people around the world pause to grieve the 30 million people who have died from HIV and AIDS in the past 30 years and unite in solidarity towards a goal of a “human race free of AIDS,” according to the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and Episcopal Presiding Bishop and Primate Katharine Jefferts Schori.
In their joint letter about the international observance, the bishops wrote that infection rates continue to grow in many parts of the world despite innovations in medicine and technology that could eliminate the virus.
“Last year alone, 2.5 million people were infected with HIV and 1.7 million died from AIDS-related causes. Each year, 50,000 new cases of HIV infection are reported in the United States alone,” they wrote.
“Vulnerable populations continue to face disproportionately high rates of infection and shrinking access to life-sustaining treatment. Our silence, and the stigma attached to those living with HIV or AIDS, perpetuates the poverty that so often surrounds the disease,” wrote Hanson and Schori, adding that the silence and stigma often cause HIV-positive Lutherans and Episcopalians to feel invisible in their own communities.
Yet there has been progress in the work against AIDS, the bishops shared. More than 8 million people in the world are receiving life-saving treatment for HIV, and people with HIV and AIDS who have access to basic treatment are now living long and productive lives. Women infected with the virus are giving birth to healthy children free of the virus.
The cost of HIV treatment has fallen with increased efficiencies and greater access to generic drugs, they wrote. “Leaders in Africa, the region most affected by the pandemic, recently committed to increasing their domestic investment and taking greater responsibility for eliminating AIDS in their populations.”
In their letter, Hanson and Schori urged the U.S. government to strengthen its leading effort toward “getting to zero” infections. “We urge President Obama to reverse proposed cuts to PEPFAR, to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and to domestic programs that provide affordable access to antiretroviral treatment, palliative care, and health services. We also urge him to recommend to funding strong, comprehensive HIV and AIDS programs in his second term.”
World AIDS Day falls on the eve of the church season of Advent, “a time when we wait in joyful expectation of the Savior who takes on human flesh to dwell among the poor and the vulnerable. We join with Mary, the mother of Jesus, in praise of the God who exalts the humble, meek, hungry and sick,” Hanson and Schori wrote.
“We look to God with confidence, grateful for what has been done, and hopeful for what God will continue to do through us as we look for ways where we can partner to heal humanity of HIV and AIDS,” wrote Hanson and Schori.
The ELCA’s Strategy on HIV and AIDs strives to halt the spread of the disease through effective prevention, treatment, and care, eliminate the stigma and discrimination experienced by those who are HIV-positive, and reduce the conditions of poverty and marginalization that contribute to the spread of HIV. The strategy is available at www.ELCA.org/Aids and the church’s social message on the pandemic is at http://www.ELCA.org/Messages/Aids.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God's work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org
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