When we consider health issues around the world, HIV-AIDS continues to be a major concern. According to the United Nations (UN) latest reports, 35 million people are living with HIV globally, with 22 million having no access to antiretroviral therapy. While it is true that new HIV infections have been declining since 2001 (38 percent less among adults and 58 percent less among children), the HIV epidemic continues to outpace this decline.1 New HIV infections continue to rise in some locations and in populations that are marginalized.
Globally, HIV is the leading cause of death among women
of reproductive age, the second most common cause of
death among adolescents, and the leading cause of death
among adolescents ages 10–19 in Africa.2 Sadly, the majority
of these adolescents are girls who often are forced to
have sexual contact with HIV positive abusers. These statistics
led the UN to include HIV-AIDS among its Sustainable
Development Goals (SDG#3), with a bold commitment to
end the epidemic of AIDS globally by 2030.3
As an elder you may ask: What does that have to do with
me and my church? Well, for one, the stigma and shame
that come from an HIV-AIDS diagnosis is still a real problem
in many parts of the world and many of our members carry
this burden. But second, as a people called to extend Jesus’
healing ministry to the brokenhearted and ill in our communities,
it is our duty to do something, right?
Recognizing that HIV-AIDS is a major cause of pain and
early mortality in our communities, the Seventh-day Adventist
church has made a commitment to meet this need and
be part of the solution of the HIV-AIDS problem since 2002.
It was then that Adventist Aids International Ministry
(AAIM) began to make a difference in the African continent
as the epidemic was at its height. Members were afraid to
share their diagnosis and attempted to hide their shame. But
by the pioneer work of Drs Oscar and Eugenia Giordano,
AAIM directors, a compassionate environment was created
in churches across Africa, and people with HIV felt warmly
welcomed and embraced.4
Support groups were formed with the goal that each
church would become a center for hope and healing for people with HIV-AIDS, while education
and knowledge was shared and access
to treatment was made available.
Today, AAIM continues its mission to coordinate activities
and develop resources to bring comfort, healing, and
hope to those infected and affected by HIV-AIDS where
needed. It also aims to share a message of education and
prevention to the general population through churches functioning
as centers of hope and healing.
What about your church? Is there an intentional ministry
reaching your members or those in the community who may
have HIV or AIDS? If not, how can you use your influence
as a spiritual leader to facilitate the initiation of a ministry
that can benefit those hurting from this diagnosis? No matter
which continent you reside on, HIV-AIDS is present and
people are hurting from it. How could you help?
It is simple: become engaged in Comprehensive Health
Ministry. As you develop collaborations among your ministries
(Health, Women, Youth, Children, and others) your
church can become a center for hope and healing meeting
felt needs while demonstrating God’s love and compassion.
As we focus on reducing HIV-related discrimination
and violence against women and girls5
, securing equitable
access to services for people affected by HIV through the
ministry of a Faith Community Nurse, or providing a compassionate
church environment free from stigma and shame
through a ministry like AAIM, we will be sharing Christ’s
mission to “heal the brokenhearted,” thus bringing them
“beauty for ashes” and “oil of joy for mourning,” so His
name can be glorified.6
Isaiah 61:1-3 - NIV
Katia Reinert is associate director of the Health
Ministries Department for the General Conference.