According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the following trends of
the worldwide epidemic (or pandemic) of HIV are evident:
Today, 40.3 million people are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS.
An estimated 5 million people acquired the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in
During 2005, AIDS caused the deaths of an estimated 3 million people, including
The AIDS epidemic is affecting women and girls in increasing numbers. Globally,
half of all people living with HIV are female. In most regions, an increasing
proportion of people living with HIV are women and girls, and that proportion is
continuing to grow, particularly in Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Georgia is consistently in the top 5-10 states with the highest number of new diagnoses
These numbers aren't at all surprising to me. Monday-Friday and some Saturdays, my days are filled with this work. It is work/ministry/vocation that is such a priviledge sometimes, such a weight on my heart most of the time. Last night I cried to Ross because it all feels so overwhelming sometimes. Seeing people hurt, in every way you can hurt; seeing families suffer, watching death. It's agonizing.
This is why I so appreciated World AIDS Day Mass last night. With sweet Ross on one side of me and my the little sister of my heart on the other side, Stephanie Byerly, and with all my sweet nun friends in front of me, I listened to Archbishop Gregory. He repeatedly used the phrase during prayer 'for those infected and AFFECTED by AIDS'. I count myself blessed and pained by being one of those affected by AIDS. I count myself blessed because my patients and friends at Gift of Grace are awesome. Really, really awesome y'all. I count myself blessed that I live in Atlanta, a town that truly does serve these people, a town with a renowned clinic that gives amazing care regardless of ability to pay. I count myself blessed because I belong to a church, with a shepherd, Archbishop Gregory, that from his first day here four years ago, made AIDS ministry a priority. I am blessed because in my community, the Archbishop, advised by Irene Miranda and our passionate AIDS ministry, does not tolerate injustice to our sweet friends with AIDS. No longer is discrimination and stigma tolerated in churches. No longer is making AIDS patients be the last in the communion line allowed. Uneducated priests and parishoners are being educated and are learning that these truly are the 'least of our brothers and sisters'. Christ TOLD us to serve them. And somedays I will serve them poorly. And some days I will have people like Stephanie and Ross and Space and my mama and the nuns and Katrina and good ole Jesus to give me the support and love to serve them much better.
God of all compassion,
comfort Your sons and daughters
who live with AIDS.
Spread over us all Your quilt of mercy,
love and peace.
Open our eyes to Your presence
reflected in their faces.
Open our ears to Your truth
echoing in their hearts.
God of life, help us find the cure now
and help us build a world in which
no one dies alone and where
everyone lives accepted,
wanted and loved.