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Commentary: World must unite in fighting AIDS

 


Commentary: World must unite in fighting AIDS

Dec. 1, 2004                                                                                  

A UMNS Commentary

By the Rev. R. Randy Day*

The prevention of HIV infection and the care and treatment of AIDS patients is a major medical mission priority of the United Methodist Church.

General Conference, the legislative branch of our church, has recognized the importance of, and encouraged congregations to engage in, HIV/AIDS-related ministries. General Conference encourages United Methodist participation in World AIDS Day through education, special offerings and direct services.

The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the church’s international mission agency, has been involved in HIV/AIDS ministries for many years, with a particular focus at the present on sub-Sahara Africa, where a huge percentage of the cases are found. We monitor every aspect of the global AIDS picture, and we are alarmed by what we see at the end of 2004.

The statistics alone are distressing:

·        An estimated 4.9 million new cases occurred in 2004.

·        Between 35.9 million and 44.3 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, with the best estimate set at 39.4 million by public health trackers. These are record highs.

·        Of the 39.4 million cases, 25.4 million are in sub-Sahara Africa, although the numbers are also increasing for parts of Asia.

·        More than 57 percent of the cases in Africa are among women, and the rates of infection for children and young people are frighteningly high.

·        Between 1981 and the end of 2003, 20 million people around the world have died of AIDS.

·        Twelve million children in Africa alone have become orphaned by the dread disease.

We are also alarmed by the failure of the world’s governments and the international community to act more decisively in providing drug therapies that can make it possible for people to live productive lives despite HIV infection. We applaud the efforts of some pharmaceutical companies to reduce costs of drugs for poor countries, but supplies of affordable treatment are limited and still expensive.

We are chagrined by the failure of governments to meet the giving levels projected by the international Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The fund is falling behind in its scheduled grants. Another concern arises from reports that recipient governments do not always act swiftly to use the resources provided by the fund.

The Board of Global Ministries remains committed to active ministries of education and care in the area of HIV/AIDS. We are currently organizing an extensive program of ongoing education for children in Zimbabwe who have lost their parents to AIDS. We are working with churches across Africa to become more effective in HIV/AIDS education and in equipping United Methodists as caregivers.

On World AIDS Day, 2004, we call upon all men and women in all societies to observe responsible, safe sexual practices; to avoid all forms of substance abuse, including those that can transmit HIV; and to avoid exposing others to infection should they contract the virus that causes AIDS.

We call upon nations rich and poor and upon the international community to devote themselves more ardently to the control and eventual eradication of HIV/AIDS.

We call upon all United Methodists and all Christians to devote their prayers, their means, and their service to HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment.

 

*Day is chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in New York.

 

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