HIV/AIDS


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In the past few years I have written about HIV/AIDS quite a few times (see them here). But let’s be honest here for a few minutes. Who really cares?

AIDS is a four letter word, that like so many others shouldn’t be spoken about in polite company. Do you even remember what the four letter’s stand for? Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.  Yea, that means nothing to me. When you spell it out like that, it makes even less sense.

So what will actually make sense? We are very blessed that in the US, even though over a million people have HIV/AIDS (CDC), for many people it is managed through medication and is almost thought of as a type of cancer.  But did you know that babies die from HIV/AIDS related infections or were you to busy protesting at an abortion clinic?

You see, HIV/AIDS ravages your body so that something as simple as a winter sniffle could end up killing you.  That is the simple version, but it makes sense. Why did the baby get HIV? Her mom gave it to her, more than likely.  What kind of terrible mother would give her child HIV?  Who knows, maybe she was raped by a stranger in the middle of the night.  But does it matter how she got it? Only if you want to pass judgment. Why can’t we love someone without trying to pass judgment?

Ok, so babies and children are dying because of no fault of their own. A quick question, if the entire population of Spain had HIV/AIDS do you think someone would care? What about the entire population of Texas? Well according to World Vision, that is the current estimate of how many people are currently suffering with this ailment. 40 million.

By 2010, the number of children orphaned by the disease is expected to exceed 25 million — slightly more than the population of Texas — according to the United Nations. The impact on these children, both before and after the deaths of their parents, is catastrophic.

A few days ago was Black Friday.  Did you go waste your money on earthly materials that do nothing but provide five minutes of happiness to your child before being thrown in the bin with last year’s?  This year a Walmart employee was “trampled to death” by shoppers eager to purchase the latest craze.

Something is wrong with this picture.

This is truly a sad state of affairs.  As a culture we are willing to trample over fellow Americans to purchase a blender.  I guess it should be no surprise to me that no one cares about babies dying in a foreign land.  All of this makes me angry and sad.

But I am thankful for the organizations, churches, and individuals who are willing to stand up today and throw off the chains of injustice and care for the orphaned child and suffering widow.  These are our brothers and sisters and they deserve our love and admiration.

James 14-17 Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

Will you sit idly by or will you act today?

Bloggers Unite

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If you didn’t know today is Blog Action Day around the world!!!

Thousands of bloggers are writing about poverty today and offering radical ways to end poverty. It is an interesting idea and has produced some great posts. My BAD post is simply a wrap-up to the Team World Vision fundraising!! I am so super excited that my family and friends were willing to donate over $2,100 towards World Vision and supporting my marathon. You can see my official BAD post here.

I know World Vision will put that money to great use in eliminating poverty in Africa. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

A quick thought about ways that I’m involved in eliminating poverty:

  • Working for an inner-city school with a large immigrant population – trying to find ways to enhance the learning environment and educational experiences for 400 kids.
  • Tutoring Somali adults so that they can learn English and obtain US Citizenship.
  • Providing another peaceful presence on our block and being involved in the neighborhood.
  • Being involved in a church that is focused on show the love of Jesus to our neighbors.
  • We support a child in Ghana through World Vision.
  • We partner with several friends who are working internationally trying to bring peace and justice to the communities they work in.
  • We recently made a small business loan through OptINNow a Christian micro-lending organization. Our loan helped a Kenyan man expand his retail outlet.
  • We haven’t done this in awhile, but shopping at a Goodwill or Salvation Army store gives you some great deals while supporting their job training programs.
  • We actively advocate for the end of Genocide and other issues related to international and local poverty.
  • I blog a lot about social justice and poverty!

This is just a start… what are you doing to end poverty? Here is a list of 88 Ways to Do Something About Poverty.

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The headline may be a little misleading, but now that you are here lets look at the facts. If you pull out statistics for only Black American’s they have a AIDS prevalence rate that would rank 16th in the world. This according to the Black AIDS Institute and reported in New York Times.

That is a little scary – WE ARE THE RICHEST NATION IN THE WORLD – how can something like this still be going on in the US? We are providing all kinds of resources around the world and are seeing HIV/AIDS dropping – then why is it still so high here? This study was released at the same time that the CDC released a report that the US has been underestimating the prevalence of HIV/AIDS by about 40%. How do you underestimate by almost half? That’s a good question!

Phill Wilson, Executive Director of the Black AIDS Institute, would say that some of the problem is within the black community/culture. Summed up in one word: Stigma.

So why do I still say, “AIDS in America today is a Black disease?” The truth is, while awareness – and lip service – about this disease may be rising, too many of us still don’t know our HIV status, aren’t in appropriate care and treatment, and aren’t taking concrete steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones from becoming infected. When it comes to this disease, we’ve got to walk the talk.

The facts remain startling. Over 50% of HIV-positive African Americans do not know they are HIV positive. For those who do get tested, it is often too late: Too late for treatment to be fully effective, too late to stop the progression from HIV to AIDS and too late to prevent significantly more AIDS-related deaths in our communities.

And there is a cruel irony here: Many of our people are dying just as HIV treatment reaches new heights. Today’s medications mean HIV can be successfully treated over the long term with just 1 or 2 pills a day. This is amazing progress compared to just a decade ago, when treatment was difficult to take and involved lots of pills. But because we’re not getting tested for HIV early and often, many of our brothers and sisters are missing out on these advances.

Behind all of this is the ongoing challenge of HIV stigma. Too many people are still too scared to take the test for fear of how others may react to a positive diagnosis. And too many people are discouraged by damaging misinformation and myths in our community about HIV. But times have changed. Today, the stigma Black America really needs to be concerned about is the shame of not getting tested, and thereby not doing what it takes to end the AIDS epidemic in our communities. It is time for each one of us to take responsibility for the health – and the future – of our community.

The Institute is taking action in a campaign called “Test One Million” which hopes to:

  • Reduce HIV rates in Black America,
  • Dramatically increase the number of Black people who know their HIV status,
  • Build an army of Black testing and treatment advocates,
  • Increase the number of Black people seeking early treatment and care, and
  • Decrease HIV stigma in Black communities.

The problem is multi-faceted and so will the ability to fix it. The Institute rails against the Bush Administration for providing development aid targeting HIV/AIDS to countries that have a lower prevelance rate than the black community. I think part of this stems from the fact that money has been invested in those countries for awhile now and have done marvelous good. In the same NY Times article a UN report is quoted as saying that the overall mortality rates from HIV/AIDS has decreased since its peak in the early 1980’s.

I think the black community has the right to be upset about this issue. In my opinion it is more of a systematic racism but it is also a big cultural issue. I don’t believe they should rely solely on government aid – this is America – we need to do some work too. But as the culture is being transformed through superstars like Oprah and even Obama (both were tested for HIV publicly) we as a citizenry and government need to make sure the resources are there to support the change. One of the main reasons anti-retrovirals, the drugs that can slow HIV/AIDS down, are available internationally at an affordable rate is because many are subsidized. Actually there are some of the drugs that are being sold internationally on the market as generics due to emergency clauses in patent laws – which will never be seen in the US.

Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation have been very active in the process of helping combat the issue of HIV/AIDS around the world and was actually a big reason for subsidies and getting the drugs sent at discount prices. On August 5, he announced that his foundation will now include doing work in the United States around this issue. He didn’t provide many specifics to his plan but simply said:

“For Americans, this should be a wake-up call,” Clinton said, addressing the International AIDS Conference here. “Even as we fight the epidemic globally, we must focus at home. And I intend to do so with my foundation.”

If you are still reading and not completely overwhelmed you can tell this is a very complex issue and one that you and I probably can’t do much about. We can continue to be aware of the problem and the issue. At some point we will need to step up and say we want the government to take action and help rid the country of this virus.

What do you think? Do you see a better/easier solution?

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Don’t abuse or take advantage of strangers; you,remember, were once strangers in Egypt. Don’t mistreat widows or orphans. If you do and they cry out to me, you can be sure I’ll take them most seriously; I’ll show my anger and come raging among you with the sword, and your wives will end up widows and your children orphans. And if I hear the neighbor crying out from the cold, I’ll step in—I’m compassionate.”
Exodus 22:21-27 The Message

As millions suffer from this dreadful disease, we are full-swing into a self-centered, materialistic, holiday season.  If we want to put the Christ back in Christmas this is an excellent opportunity. Christ was about justice, not materialism or fighting to have His name displayed everywhere.

World AIDS Day is actually tomorrow (Dec 1) and is a day to focus on the AIDS pandemic and its impact on global structures.   The World AIDS Campaign has selected Leadership as its 2007 theme. From their site

Leaders are distinguished by their action, innovation and vision; their personal example and engagement of others; and their perseverance in the face of obstacles and challenges. However, leaders are often not those in the highest offices. Leadership must be demonstrated at every level to get ahead of the disease – in families, in communities, in countries and internationally. Much of the best leadership on AIDS has been demonstrated within civil society organisations challenging the status quo. (emphasis mine)

HIV rates are actually increasing throughout the world while at the same time less money and attention is being paid to the issue.  HIV/AIDS makes for good soundbytes for politicians but many have failed to take a leadership role and really step up to ensure that our promises are kept.

The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. Psalm 33:5

World Vision offers you the opportunity to Learn, Act, and Give.

©2007 Jon Warren/World Vision
Country: Democratic Republic of
the Congo

They have focused on the 6,000 children who lose a parent to AIDS. The ONE Campaign has a good list of activities and organizations working on the issue posted on their blog. I would strongly encourage you to take action today.

Your help is vital to changing the world for our fellow citizens around the world who are struggling to survive, while you struggle to find a Wii.

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

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Shockingly, despite around 50 years of independence for most African countries, many are worse off today.  Is this because of disempowering foreign aid?  Despite growing aid the number of poor in Africa continues to grow, reportedly doubling in the past decade.

Christian Science Monitor’s Danna Harman asked more hard questions about the West’s approach to Africa.  She gave two US economists the opportunity to debate Western Aid in relationship to Africa.

The two major schools of thought are 1) Governance first, improving local governments; 2) Poverty first, reducing poverty.  A third group says foreign aid is vital, but changes need to be made in the process.

William Easterly a professor of economics at New York University asks where the money spent already has gone and concludes that

…aid can certainly help alleviate the suffering of the poor, but that “the problem with aid is the people implementing the aid projects have weak incentives because they are never held accountable for results.”

Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University economist and UN Millennium Project director, takes the opposite view saying

…that the US spends more than $600 billion per year on the Pentagon, and less than one-hundredth of that in help for all of Africa. “One day’s Pentagon spending would pay for all the bed nets [to stop malaria] for every sleeping site in Africa for five years,” he charges. “People are hungry. People are dying. There are countless proven and effective ways to help, and which can extricate people from poverty in the long run. The drama is whether American politics can rouse itself to take note.”

I feel the third group is the best place to be.  We should be focusing on both improving governance and supplying aid in an efficient and effective manner.  PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) is attempting to do this by providing grants to organizations as well as well-governed countries.

 

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That was the question answered in a series of articles published by the Christian Science Monitor on August 22.

Reporter Danna Harman interviewed a variety of celebrities, humanitarian professionals, and Africans to see what kind of impact celebrity’s are having on the continent.  She was met with mixed reviews, but concluded that overall it is having a positive effect.  We are left to wonder if maybe their impact could be increased by better coordination and overall planning.

In the first article, Can Celebrities Really Get Results? Bruce Sievers, a visiting scholar at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif, points out that,

“There are so many dimensions to intervening in a different culture. The question is, how well informed are all the celebrities trying to do a thorough job in Africa, let alone those who just travel over and are blown away by the poverty?”

Maybe a more important question is are they willing to stick with their “cause”  as long as necessary for it to succeed?

The answer, of course, is that it depends. Celebrity attention to Africa runs the gamut. Some stars show up for a single celebrity poker match in Las Vegas or a benefit cocktail party in New York to raise awareness for an issue. Others write large checks, lend their names, and even roll up their sleeves to help, but still court controversy along the way. And yet others get deeply involved, hiring advisers and studying to understand the challenges, before deciding on what role they can play most effectively.

Former President Clinton reminds us that celebrities are humans too and that while the struggle to change societies may be a long time coming, lives are still being changed.

“We should not have unrealistic expectations,” says Clinton, at the conclusion of the interview in Zambia. “It’s not easy to change societies … but still, all of us can change lives.”

 

“Celebrities are like other people who do this … some of them will stay at it for a lifetime, some of them will quit. Real life will intrude on them just as it does on the rest of us. They will have children and want to spend more time with them … or they will get bored or get sick. But on balance, these high-visibility, high-profile movie stars are part of a global movement of giving, which is a function of our interdependence.”

In the second article, Harman tackles the questions surrounding celebrity adoptions. Her conclusions again are mixed but this data point is hard to argue with:

In October 2006, after Madonna took custody of David, phone inquiries to WHFC (Wide Horizons For Children which helped Jolie with her adoption, but not Madonna) increased by 38 percent – this despite the fact that the agency had nothing to do with Madonna’s adoption and does not even facilitate adoptions in Malawi. In July 2005, the month Angelina Jolie’s adoption became public, the number of phone inquiries received by WHFC more than tripled over the previous month.

 

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This was a busy weekend!

Saturday was an Acting on AIDS Regional Conference hosted by Anderson University and conducted by World Vision. Sunday was a Rally for Darfur at the Indiana State House.

Acting on AIDS

Acting on AIDS is a program started by Christian college students to create awareness and activism of the global AIDS pandemic at colleges and universities across the nation. With the support of World Vision, Christian college students have formed a network of Acting on AIDS chapters which seek to change hearts on campuses, create awareness in communities, and advocate for those impacted by the global AIDS pandemic.

Steve Haas, VP of Church Relations at World Vision was the main speaker. He used a lot of Scripture to make his points. Some of the things that I found impactful are:

  • Women are 12x’s as likely as men to contract HIV/AIDS through HETEROSEXUAL activities.
  • Luke 4’s madate to evangelize by caring for the poor
  • We have Kingdom Assignments that include Justice and Peacemaking
  • We need to give more than a % of our $ but also a % of our time, heart, and mind!

They also showed this powerful video. Finally we ate a Broken-Bread meal. During the meal they invite you to Identify, Intercede, and Interact.
Identify by eating a corn-soy blend porridge which is the exact porridge used by WV and other relief organizations around the world during a crisis situation. Not the worst porridge, but not like a good oatmeal or grits. They also ask you to sit on the floor and remain silent during the meal. You are also given an “identity card” on which is a story about a child and their desperate situation.
Intercede by reflecting quietly and asking for God to intervene and to continue to raise up faithful people to help meet the needs of His people.
Interact by talking in small groups about the meal, your identity (child), and whatever else.

This was a powerful way to experience even a snippet of what is happening.

I would also encourage you to check out Bound4Freedom

Rally for Darfur

Check out these past posts for a reminder about the situation in Darfur:
April 5, 2007 March 30, 2007 January 23, 2007 January 11, 2007 December 19, 2006 December 15, 2006 December 7, 2006 November 28, 2006

Indiana currently has legislation pending for Divestment from Sudan.

Harkening back to the days of Apartheid South Africa, fiduciaries have explored the option of divesting from companies that either do business in Sudan or with the government of Sudan. Indeed, numerous states, cities, and universities have already divested while dozens of others are currently considering this option. Building on this momentum, the Sudan Divestment Task Force has developed a unique model of divestment that maximizes divestment’s impact on the government of Sudan while minimizing unintended harmful effects on innocent Sudanese citizens and on the health of institutional investments.

Organizations that helped sponsor Sunday’s Rally include:

Save Darfur
Citizens for Global Solutions
ENOUGH
Sudan Divestment Taskforce (which is a project of the Genocide Intervention Network)
Darfur Peace & Development Organization
Campus Progress
Fidelity Out of Sudan

A few things that really struck me and please if nothing else take these actions:

  1. Visit the Save Darfur Coalition website and click through some of their simple action steps.
  2. Sign the Petition to Fidelity. They said today that if everyone in the US divested their money from Sudan (with surgical precision) almost $1 Billion could be taken away from the Sudanese Genocide Machine.
  3. Darfur, Rwanda, Kosovo, Khmer Rouge, Nazi Germany. These were all modern-day genocides and we said we’d never let it happen again after the Holocaust.

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