December 1 | Hope
In the early 1980s, there was little hope in what our nation was facing. Principally, White, gay men were dying from a medical challenge that was difficult to understand and treat. Eventually, HIV/AIDS became the given name for attacks on healthy immune systems. Initially, the virus evidenced itself in the gay community. Since then, the virus has proven that it does not discriminate; it attacks those who put themselves at risk through the exchange of four bodily fluids: Semen, vaginal secretions, blood, and breast milk. It does not discriminate racially, sexual preferences or choices, economic status, or geography. HIV is looking for an opportunity to infect healthy immune systems.
Medical research, treatment cascades, testing, and community education has produced tremendous outcomes since the 1980s. Although people are becoming infected with HIV and dying from complications of AIDS, because of treatment, people are living longer and the quality of life has vastly improved.
I became involved in HIV work in 1991, volunteering on the board of AIDS Alabama. The principal impetus for my involvement was the death of two beloved friends. In 2002, I went to UAB’s 1917 Clinic as the second chaplain. My commitment was to speak to and with the African American faith-based community. HIV infection rates were soaring in the African American community and it was important to share more information about HIV. We were determined to help congregations better understand HIV and disseminate more information about what was taking place in their congregations. In fourteen years, I have witnessed great progress. Equally, there is room for ongoing education, testing, and prevention initiatives.
UAB’s 1917 Clinic treats 3,300 patients. The patients receive outstanding care and many services provided to ensure the best state-of-the art primary healthcare. Since 1988, we have been good stewards of academic research, resources, and the commitment to be compassionate, non-judgmental, and professional.
On this first Sunday of Advent and this week of World AIDS Day (December 1), I remain hopeful that researchers will eventually find a cure. I remain hopeful that those who are HIV-negative will ask appropriate questions, remain non-judgmental, offer compassion for those living with the virus, avoid stigma and discrimination, and stay negative. To those who are HIVpositive, I pray that they will manage their health, continue life and living to the fullest, and when appropriate, share their stories.
As we move through the four weeks of Advent, Mary and Joseph stood at a difficult place. Through God’s providence, hope was made available to the world. Because of that hope, born in Jesus, we experience the loving compassion and grace of God. Amen.