This week, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori joined with Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and activists around the United States to proudly welcome 20,000 practitioners, policymakers, advocates, and community leaders to Washington, D.C. for the biannual International AIDS Conference (IAC). Many of these visitors are living with HIV or AIDS.
"The Body of Christ is global," the presiding bishops proclaimed. "It is impoverished and wealthy; it is diverse in gender and in sexual orientation; it is African, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, and Indigenous; it is old and young; it has large families and orphaned youth. And it is HIV-positive."
The 2012 International AIDS Conference commemorates the U.S. government's lifting of prohibitive travel constraints which prevented persons living with HIV and AIDS from traveling to the United States. It also represents a new hope, based on advances in medicine and technology, to bring an end to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
"Our government must redouble efforts and strengthen funding for strong, comprehensive HIV and AIDS programs. These programs include the global President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and domestic programs that provide affordable access to antiretroviral treatments, palliative care, health services (including for victims of sexual violence), nutritious foods, HIV testing and counseling, and harm-reduction programs for drug users."
In addition to investing in HIV infection prevention and treatment, the Presiding Bishops also remind us that God calls each of us to serve those living with HIV and AIDS with respect, support, and compassion:
"Our churches must work to shatter the silence, stigma, and discrimination that perpetuate the invisibility of HIV-positive Lutherans and Episcopalians in our denominations, and continue to push them into the shadows of their own congregations."
Follow the Presiding Bishops' lead and urge your Members of Congress to observe this week's International AIDS Conference by supporting legislation that engenders proactive, comprehensive approaches to abating the spread of the HIV and AIDS pandemic.