Monday, November 24, 2014

World AIDS Day: Educate, Donate to Help Us Find a Cure

As I reflect back on the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980’s it was a time of intense fear in the church I was serving in Baltimore.  A number of the church members had contracted the disease and as the word spread people were afraid to even stand near the infected ones. 

I remember a board meeting where folks were calling for the end of “passing the peace” during the service, and for intinction during Holy Communion to be replaced with individual cups of grape juice.  There was a lot of unfounded fear and ignorance; and sadly there were also many deaths because medications and treatment had not been developed. 

Fast forward to 2014, and it is a different story.  Dr. Christoph Benn, Director of External Relations for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, addressed the Council of Bishops at the November meeting in Oklahoma City.  He was very hopeful and he commended The United Methodist Church for partnering with The Global Fund in combating these killer diseases.  

In terms of HIV/AIDS, he reported that there are 33 percent fewer people in the world with the disease since 2005.  In terms of deaths, there are 1.5 million people dying from AIDS complications now, as opposed to 3 million in 2005. There were 400,000 babies born with HIV back then, and now that number has been cut in half.  While AIDS is still a major heath concern on this planet, we are making progress in eliminating it due to medical advances in fighting this disease and the large amount of money that has been raised.

Dr. Benn stressed that medication as well as education is the winning combination. The more people learn about the disease the better they can take preventative measures.  Education also helps eliminate the stigma that comes with this disease. 

While I was touring the East Congo Conference this summer our team visited an AIDS clinic. The social worker there was explaining to parents with a baby born with HIV that they should not reject their child.  Some parents were actually hiding their babies under the bed because of the stigma of AIDS. 

The UMC has more than 200 HIV/AIDS clinics like this one in over 35 countries working hard to both treat the disease and teach people about prevention.

The UMC is challenging the world to eliminate this disease by the year 2020.  December 1st is World AIDS Day and it would be a great opportunity to teach your church about HIV/AIDS and to collect funds for the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund (UMGAF). 

The monies collected helps efforts in developing countries, but 25 percent of all donations through the UMC remain in the donor annual conferences for AIDS ministries.  For more information and promotional materials check out the UMCOR website at:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Honoring our Veterans; caring for those with disabilities

November 11th is Veterans Day.  It is an official United States holiday in which we honor the men and woman who have served in the Armed Forces. 

Veterans Day honors all who have served, while Memorial Day remembers those who lost their lives in service of their country. There are more than 21.5 million veterans in our country today.

We have veterans from numerous wars living in our country; and although the conflicts and the issues surrounding each of our wars is different, they have one thing in common: they all have persons in their ranks who have suffered disabilities.

There are 3.5 million veterans with service-connected disabilities, and an estimated 800,000 of them have severe disabilities.  These include loss of limbs, hearing loss, vision loss, disfigurement and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few.  In addition, there is a high rate of suicide and attempted suicide and many who have suffered from sexual trauma while in the military.