HIV, AIDS still demand our awareness, response

While other lethal diseases receive deserved attention these days—Ebola, MERS, ALS, etc.—HIV and AIDS remains a widespread, lethal disease affecting millions of people across the U.S. and the globe;  and it remains of great concern to The United Methodist Church.

A conference designed to equip advocates, health workers and concerned Christians involved or seeking to be involved in HIV & AIDS ministries will convene in Denver, Col., Sept. 11-13. Featured speakers will include four United Methodist Bishops, an international medical AIDS specialist, two seminary professors from Zimbabwe and Kenya, United Methodist pastors, a Muslim woman, and persons living with HIV.

The conference, titled “Countdown to Zero: Just Save One,” will emphasize how to prevent HIV infections and deaths from AIDS.  Sponsored by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund (UMGAF), it builds on the motto “Getting to Zero: No new HIV infections, no discrimination, and no new AIDS deaths.” Workshops will focus on affected population groups, such as Latinas and Native American youths, and on training conference and local resource people to educate and advocate for greater awareness and response.

Attendees will also hear about UMGAF’s new initiative: Just Save One, which, for the next year, will fund projects to eliminate the transmission of HIV from pregnant moms to their newborn babies. “United Methodists are at a critical tipping point,” said the Rev. Donald Messer, director of the Fund. “Are we going to help eliminate AIDS in the world or simply pretend that we can’t do anything to stop children from getting infected and mothers from dying?”

Registration ended Sept. 1; but we will report on highlights of this gathering in the coming weeks. Learn more…

In the meantime, our own EPA Conference-supported HIV & AIDS response ministry, H.U.B. of Hope, led by the Rev. Deborah Tanksley-Brown, [dtanksleybrown@comcast.net] continues its education and advocacy efforts, urging churches to promote several upcoming national HIV & AIDS awareness days. These annual observances offer a chance to spotlight various vulnerable population groups that are increasingly affected by the disease.

Sept. 18 is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day. Sept. 27 is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  Oct. 15 is National Latino AIDS Awareness Day.  And  Dec. 1 is the better known and promoted World AIDS Day.

It is estimated that by 2015, half of those living with HIV will be over 50. Many older adults with HIV are longtime survivors.  However, others are newly diagnosed or newly infected. Older Americans are more likely than younger Americans to be diagnosed with HIV infection later in the course of their disease. A growing number of people aged 50 and older in the United States are living with HIV infection.

People aged 55 and older accounted for almost one-fifth (19 percent or 217,000) of the estimated 1.1 million people living with HIV infection in the United States in 2010.  We must ensure that policies around prevention, treatment and care proactively address the particular needs of HIV-positive and at risk older adults (HIV, AIDS, and Older People: http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/hiv-aids-and-older-people).

Other information sources include : the Centers for Disease Control; GMHC; and the AIDS Institute for their Awareness Month Info and Toolkit.

Learn more about the H.U.B. of Hope (link opens PDF brochure), and visit the ministry’s informative Facebook page. The ministry, which offers training and resourcing, will provide more information about HIV & AIDS awareness days and other related matters in the coming months.

There are two key ways to make much-needed donations to support their work. Either make checks payable to the UM Global AIDS Fund, identifying Advance Special Project # #982345, and send them to the EPA Conference Treasurer. Or make checks payable to UM Church of the Open Door, which is home base for the mobile H.U.B. of Hope, and note on the check memo line: H.U.B. of Hope. You can mail those donations to UM Church of the Open Door, 210 S. Broad St, Kennett Square, PA 19348. Telephone: (610) 444-2400.