July 3 marked the 36th anniversary of the New York Times story introducing HIV-AIDS to the world.
The New York Times ran an article on July 3, 1981 with the headline “Rare Cancer found in 41 Homosexuals,” which was the first public notice in the United States about the emerging HIV and AIDS epidemic.
Very little was known about this infectious disease, but in time, through research and political will, the global community began responding to this crisis.
People suffered and died by the millions due to the virus, leaving children orphaned and communities decimated — in particularly poor regions of the world. This is not a pretty picture.
Because HIV can be a sexually transmitted virus or is sometimes transmitted through IV drug use, society leveled all sorts of stigma and discrimination on people who contracted this virus. These fear-based responses meant HIV and AIDS were treated differently than other diseases, such as malaria, cancer or polio.
Many people believe the crisis is winding down and that HIV is now completely manageable. This is partially true, but it’s only one side of a story.
One the one hand, fewer people are dying thanks to new medicines and we have extremely effective drugs that prevent transmission.
But on the other hand, access to these drugs is limited. Not everyone living with HIV — or those who are at risk for infection — is able get these medicines.
And so, HIV and AIDS are still with us.
The United Methodist Church responded to this crisis in 2004 by creating the United Methodist Global AIDS Committee. (UMGAC is a UMC Advance Special, #982345.)
The UMGAC focuses on HIV and AIDS education and advocacy, but we cannot do our work in isolation. UMGAC needs your help.
Churches can be places for education about HIV. They can provide safe spaces for people living with HIV or AIDS to worship. And, they can advocate for legislation that does no harm to those living with AIDS and that supports robust prevention and treatment strategies.
To find out how you can help, go to: www.umglobalaidsfund.com.