Hope. It’s an important word when you’re talking about HIV/AIDS, and yet it seems contradictory. Today there are over 34 million people living with HIV/AIDS and over 16 million children have been orphaned. It’s easy to think that HIV is a death sentence and give up. But there’s good news. There are new treatments available that are changing HIV from a terminal disease to a chronic illness, meaning that more children are born HIV-free. More parents are living to care for their children. Fewer people are contracting the virus and those who are infected are living better, healthier lives. There’s still a long way to go, but there is some very bright light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
For the last 23 years, we’ve been marking December 1 on our calendars as World AIDS Day. When it began, AIDS was a little-understood disease. Most of us didn’t know how it was transmitted. Initially there was no treatment. Fear and stigma abounded, and those who were diagnosed with HIV typically died within 10 years. Now, thanks in part to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, more people are accessing treatment. New infections are down. There are interventions that can reduce mother to child transmission of HIV down to less than 5%. Moms are living to care for their babies. For an HIV-positive mother, this is hope.
What does the Bible have to say about this?
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
God has said over and over again that He loves the widows and the orphans. The heart of our “religion” as Christians must be to love those whom He loves. HIV has widowed and orphaned people in unprecedented numbers. Children are heading households. Sick mothers spend their last days worried about the future of their children. Grandparents are left to try and manage households. If ever there was a crisis that called us to respond with the love of God, this is it.