Third Sunday in Lent: Helping Those With HIV/AIDS

Third Sunday in Lent: Helping Those With HIV/AIDS
Don Messer of UMGAF with two children in India who were born HIV-free.

How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?

--John 4:9

As I read these words, I feel the sting of stigma and discrimination, a topic that lies heavy on my mind as I've recently returned from a meeting of the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee (UMGAF). The committee was established by the 2004 General Conference for the purpose of prompting the church to action and mobilizing resources to support HIV/AIDS prevention and care projects around the globe.

HIV-stigma acts as a barrier to prevention and care. It can keep those at risk from getting tested and those who know their status from seeking treatment. Even worse, it causes men, women and youth on every continent to question their dignity and worth. After being rejected by family, cast out from community and shunned by society, a question begins to roll around in their heads. How is it that God would have anything to do with me?

Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well reminds us that new and abundant life is available to us through the Holy Spirit. It also gives us a model of caring for those that are dismissed or rejected by society. Jesus broke right through the invisible barrier that divided Jews from Samaritans. He assured the Samaritan woman at the well of God’s love for her, of God’s gift of abundant life, even for her.

When we do the same thing we not only encourage those who have been dismissed by society as unworthy or unwanted to receive God’s abundant love and grace, we may also be saving a life from HIV/AIDS. When a woman living with HIV/AIDS knows that she is loved and not condemned, she is more likely to get tested and find out her HIV status, and to take the precautions needed to keep herself and, if pregnant, her unborn child safe.

Aware that women now account for half of all people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, UMGAF has chosen to focus this year on funding projects that help HIV-negative women stay negative and that encourage people living with HIV/AIDS to stay in care. Through our efforts we hope to prevent new cases of mother-to-child transmission and alter the tragic truth that 900 babies are born HIV-positive around the world every day.

Pictured here is Don Messer of UMGAF with a 4-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl in India who were born HIV-free because of the Women and Children's Center in Namakkal. The center was established seven years ago with a grant from UMGAF. The mother took the proper pill during pregnancy, and the baby took anti-retroviral syrup after birth. Both children are healthy and happy.

Thanks be to God!


Laura Kirby is a United Methodist deaconess working as executive director of the Haywood Street Congregation, a mission church in the Blue Ridge District of the Western North Carolina Conference. Laura represents United Methodist Women on the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee this quadrennium, and is currently serving as chair of the UMGAF Development Committee. She lives in Asheville, N.C., with her husband and their three teenage sons.

Posted or updated: 3/18/2014 11:00:00 PM
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