Thanksgiving to World AIDS Day

Thank you. Thank you for acknowledging the power of a virus to ravage lives. Thank you for extending compassion to every human being, protec...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent of Hope for World AIDS Day

The night I stumbled across my first World AIDS Day observation in our national’s capital, AIDS was the last topic I wanted to think about but the only one on my mind since my brother and I had spent much of the cross-country flight working hard to make the end-of-life choices that had to be made now that his fight with HIV was rapidly coming to an end. Yet even that dark World AIDS Day was bracketed in hope; it flickered in the last-minute (late for our plane) urgency with which Bret gathered up pamphlets to educate his east coast friends about HIV and in the candlelight vigil we happened upon 24 hours later along the White House lawn.
In the two decades since, that spark of hope has ignited into a beacon of optimism for 34 million people infected with HIV and countless more who love and care and fight for them. Even as scientists strive to contain a constantly evolving virus, prevention messages and treatment delivery methods are now customized to address varying cultural and social needs. New focus on HIV stigma now shines a light on human rights violations, like ending violence against women, that challenge individuals and countries alike to consider the worth and inherent dignity of every human being. This year, the December 1st World AIDS Day falls on the first day of Advent and while I continue to mourn the loss of my brother and millions more to AIDS, I rejoice in the hope embodied in the coming of our Savior and our joining together to build God’s healing kingdom here on earth.

A Prayer for World AIDS Day - Day 40, by The Rev. John Culp, courtesy of the UM Global AIDS Fund

"O God of Enduring Hope, never-ending love and everlasting life. We give You thanks for the faith, hope and love that sustain us in our work for healing, justice and liberation.

O God, who will break the silence about this disease? The silence of stigma, the silence of denial, the silence of fear, the silence of ignorance.

O God, when will the silence end? God, grant us the courage to see, to hear, to feel and to act in powerful meaningful ways.

O God of Healing, we remember all those who are living with HIV and AIDS and their families and caregivers. Those who grasp firmly and hopefully to every living moment.

O God of Hope, we remember all those who died: Those whose pain was so great that death would not come soon enough.

O God of Compassion, we remember all those who mourn:
grieving parents, orphans and vulnerable children, friends and entire communities.

O God of Justice, we stand with countless others who work to tear down the barriers of poverty and prejudice and break the bonds of silence, fear and discrimination. Be with those who must make their home on the edge of society because of the prejudice and fear of others.

O God, let the truth be known that HIV and AIDS is not a punishment from Thee, but a disease such as cancer, tuberculosis or malaria. Let our Faith compel us to accept that all persons, including those who are living with HIV and AIDS, are made in the image of God and are children of God.

O God, be with those who care for them; listen to them, love them; watch and wait with them. Give us the strength to stand alongside, as you do.

O God, you are present in all places and at all times. We give thanks for all those in caring professions and in medical research. We pray for relief organizations, education workers, medical teams, pharmaceutical companies and for an end to the injustice that makes human life seem worthless.

Remind us that we are in this together: We cannot walk away and we dare not pretend that this is not about us. We all suffer. Help us to work and live as ONE with our brothers and sisters across the globe.

Merciful God, we bring our grief and concern to this gathering. We bring also our thanksgiving and hope for the future."