Essay / Culture

Praying on World AIDS Day

It’s World AIDS Day today.

We tend to get faddish about issues. A buzz starts up about a particular need in the world, and many of us jump on a bandwagon of support, buying T-shirts and seeing movies and, sometimes, praying. Too often, our interest wanes as soon as the issue becomes ‘so last year.’

Other of us, perhaps annoyed by the fickle support we see in others, never climb on to any bandwagon. We pooh-pooh the juvenile, summer camp ambience surrounding the issue du jour and play the role of enlightened critic.

Like I said, it’s World AIDS Day. May it be neither a day for hipness nor one for heckling. Instead, may it be a day when we pray, educate ourselves, take specific steps to help, and commit to an ongoing investment on behalf of the least of these. Let us, in whatever way the Spirit invites us, go out to meet the crucified and risen Jesus in the victims of AIDS — for, as he tells us, as often as we do unto the least of these his brethren, we do unto him.

A few facts from World Vision:

‘Every week, AIDS claims as many live as American fatalities in the Vietnam War.’

‘6000 children are orphaned by AIDS every day.’

‘Uganda offers the world hope that we can turn the tide on this pandemic. Thanks to aggressive awareness and prevention campaigns, the HIV prevalence rate in Uganda has dropped from 21 percent in 1991 to 7 percent in 2004.’

And there’s the deeply systemic nature of the pandemic:

‘By 2020, AIDS will have claimed the lives of at least one-fifth of southern Africa’s agricultural workers. Food production is just one area in which AIDS threatens to reverse decades of development work in poor communities.’

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