[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have issued a joint statement for World AIDS Day 2012.
The text of the statement follows:
World AIDS Day, on the first of December each year, offers an opportunity for reflection. On this day, people around the world pause to grieve the 30 million human beings who have died from HIV and AIDS in the last three decades, and unite in solidarity toward the goal of a human race free of AIDS.
This year World AIDS Day falls on the eve of Advent, a time when we wait in joyful expectation of the Savior who takes on human flesh to dwell among the poor and the vulnerable. We join Mary, the mother of Jesus, in praise of the God who exalts the humble, meek, hungry, and sick:
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.’
We live out her vision of God’s Reign by embracing the sick and lifting up those whom society has cast aside.
Our task is great: thirty-four million people around the world today are living with HIV or AIDS. Infection rates are growing in many parts of the world despite innovations in medicine and technology that could eliminate the virus entirely. Last year, 2.5 million people were infected with HIV and 1.7 million died from AIDS-related causes. Each year, 50,000 new cases of HIV infection are reported in the United States alone.
Vulnerable populations continue to face disproportionately high rates of infection and shrinking access to life-sustaining treatment. Our silence, and the stigma often attached to those living with HIV or AIDS, perpetuate the poverty that so often surrounds this disease. That poverty becomes endemic and expanding through discrimination, homelessness, malnutrition, sexual violence, and incarceration. All those realities facilitate the further spread of the virus. Silence and stigma often cause HIV-positive Episcopalians and Lutherans to feel invisible, even in their own church communities.
Yet Advent is a time of hope, particularly in the ways in which God’s love and healing are evident in the progress made in the work against AIDS. Today more than 8 million people around the world receive life-saving treatment for HIV. Globally, fewer people are dying of AIDS and several countries have reduced their high infection rates (particularly for newborns) by more than 50 percent. People with HIV and AIDS who have access to basic treatment are now living long and productive lives, and women infected with the virus are giving birth to healthy children free of the virus.
This year has seen significant progress toward the end of AIDS. The cost of HIV treatment has fallen dramatically with increased efficiencies and greater access to generic drugs. Countries with high infection rates have increased their participation in programs to fight the virus. Leaders in Africa, the region most affected by the pandemic, recently committed to increasing their domestic investment and taking greater responsibility for eliminating AIDS in their populations.
This is a critical time in the fight against AIDS. We urge the United States government to strengthen its leading effort toward “getting to zero” infections. We urge President Obama to reverse proposed cuts to PEPFAR, to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and to domestic programs that provide affordable access to antiretroviral treatment, palliative care, and health services. We also urge him to recommit to funding strong, comprehensive HIV-AIDS programs in his second term.
We wait in hope this Advent season for the coming of the one who shows us how to lift up the humble, meek, hungry, and sick. We look to God with confidence, grateful for what has been done, and hopeful for what God will continue to do through us as we look for ways where we can partner to heal humanity of HIV and AIDS.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America