The following remarks are from Jennifer Copeland, Executive Director, during a candlelight vigil on World AIDs Day to honor, remember, and celebrate the lives of those living with and lost to HIV & AIDS.
Heal the Sick
One of the distinguishing characteristics about the earliest Christians, those people who lived in the first, second, and third centuries of the Common Era, was their care for the sick. Most people in those days turned away from illness. But not those early Christians. They took seriously Jesus’ claim that he had come to “heal the sick” and his call to his followers that they “take care of the sick.”
This often meant pooling their resources since most sick people are flat-broke. Christians gave of themselves, time and energy, and they spent their money on sick people. They thought sick people deserved to be treated with the highest dignity. Everyone around them, thought they were nuts.
Sometimes we are called to do things that everyone around us thinks is ludicrous, even wasteful. Over 34,000 people in N.C. are HIV positive. Nationally, about 35,000 new cases occur every year. What should we do in order that they might have enough resources to be comfortable? What should we do to ensure they receive the medical treatment they need? What should we do so that they might be treated with dignity? What should we do, regardless of how many people around us think we’re nuts for doing it?
We can start tonight be naming the truth about HIV/AIDS. It’s a virus. It’s transmitted through the blood, primarily. That makes it harder to catch than COVID, but anyone exposed to infected body fluids might catch it. For people who are already sick, we need to give them the tools to stay safe and to keep those around them safe. Like with our current headline grabbing virus, this means testing. I can’t tell you how many Covid tests I’ve had in the past 2 years. Everybody in my family had one last week before we shared Thanksgiving dinner with my elderly parents.
HIV testing should be just as common and just as regular. Everyone should get tested because none of us know where the people have been who are now the people in our lives. Testing saves lives.
And that’s what we’re here to talk about tonight. Lives. We’re here to remember all the lives that were not saved, all the ones who have died from back in the days when we didn’t understand AIDS right up until now. But now, no one else needs to die.
Now is the time to offer people the care they need to remain as healthy as possible, the protection they need to keep those around them safe, and the dignity they need to feel worthy. The N.C. Council of Churches is urging all of our member denominations to get informed, get involved, and continue acting like Christians did 2,000 years ago. Thank you.