It is remarkable how far we have come as a culture around the issue of this disease. We have moved from the days of it being called “the gay cancer”, to a time that is empowered by education, awareness, and harm reduction. Despite these strides however, we still live in a world where the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS continues to plague us. It’s very easy for those of us who are not impacted by this disease to say, “that’s not true at all.” For a different opinion, talk to someone who has it.
In the Gospel Jesus comes to a people who waited with eager expectation for the coming of the Messiah, a sentiment that we celebrate in a particular way during this Advent Season, as we too wait and watch for his return. However, among that community to which he came there were various populations that remained on the fringe, and that society pushed aside because they didn’t entirely understand their life’s realities. That reality continues in our own day…just consider for a moment, how many times have any one of us been ostracized because we weren’t being rightly understood…how many times have we mistakenly (and maybe even unknowingly) done it to others?
The key to unlocking the door of fear, ignorance, or marginalization is undoubtedly education. This is the most effective tool for empowerment that we have at our disposal.
In a world with so many scientific advances and so many organizations dedicated to this cause, there is no reason why we can’t bring the number of new infections down to zero. A part we can all play is being part of the mission of education and awareness. Tearing down stigma empowers people to get tested, to be open about their status, and to build healthy conversations that continue to inspire that same empowerment in others.
My dear sisters and brothers, during this Advent Season we look forward to Christmas, when Jesus Christ – the eternal son of the Father- comes among us as a man and takes on our human nature. When he does, he takes up his place as head of the ONE Body of Christ. He is the head of the body, and we are its members. When one part of the body suffers, the WHOLE body suffers. There are members of the Body of Christ who suffer in so many ways…to write a blog entry about them all would require space the whole Internet cannot provide – but this issue is one that we can all be a part of the solution.
So what can you do to honor HIV/AIDS Awareness Month? Be a part of the work of tearing down stigma. Educate yourself about the topic…volunteer for one of the great organizations out there who do this work every single day…there are many ways that we can all be a part of the voice that works towards tearing down stigma, educating about prevention, and praying for a cure!