As a Christian doctor facing this epidemic since 1981, I have wrestled with many questions. Reading the teachings of Jesus, especially in John 4, I want my response to be like His: Jesus sought the people in need, regardless of their status or persuasions, regardless of whether their hardship was preventable or not.
It’s heartening to see ministries like Samaritan’s Purse gather leaders from around the world to declare their involvement and concern, and to hear Franklin Graham say, “The Church of Jesus Christ needs to provide the leadership in this crisis.” Parts of the Christian Church have stepped into the fray, and while we wish it would have been sooner and greater, it’s not too late to save millions of lives and to provide a spectacular example of Christ’s love.
The cause is far from hopeless. The Church is uniquely qualified to help. HIV is preventable. In Uganda, the adult infection rate has decreased from 18 percent in 1995 to less than 8 percent today. How did this happen? Uganda’s President Museveni, his wife, churches and community leaders all came together and mounted a campaign on HIV prevention.
While prevention is clearly the needed focus, Christians can take leadership in advocating for treatment and care for people already suffering from AIDS. Drugs costing less than $10 per year, such as Bactrim, can extend the life of many individuals allowing them to care for their children longer before they become orphans. Christians must call for justice to make lower-cost treatment available for those already HIV-infected, realizing that less than 1 percent of HIV-infected individuals in developing countries receive any form of treatment.”
Now that more Christians clearly see the need, the biblical mandate and the reasons for hope, they are asking the obvious question: “What can I do?” It’s a good question that has better answers each day. For starters:
- Pray that the Church worldwide will respond to HIV/AIDS with the compassion and mercy of Christ Himself, and that many will receive Christ as a result.
- Be better informed about HIV/AIDS. The virus has infected millions worldwide. They need hope–a real and eternal hope that even the best medicine cannot offer.
- Talk to friends and church members about your concern for people living with HIV/AIDS. Select a specific project or location. Don’t be overwhelmed.
- Consider supporting churches or faith-based organizations that are tackling the epidemic. The cost of one espresso and one croissant can buy enough drugs to save five infant lives from HIV infection.
Sometimes the greatest opportunities in God’s kingdom show up in unexpected packages. Today, the HIV/AIDS crisis is forcing us to decide: Will we say “yes” to our Savior and demonstrate radical compassion, or will we be among those who contribute to the tragedy by our silence?