CBS highlights interfaith AIDS action

Sex, drugs and AIDS make a lethal mix that doesn't get much compassion, even from people of faith.

Scientific advances in prevention and life-extending drugs means those with the virus can live longer, healthier lives, but the stigma of how the disease is spread still is killing as effectively as the disease, said the Rev. Don Messer, a United Methodist pastor who believes faith communities can lead the way in ending discrimination associated with AIDS.

An interview with Messer will be part of a CBS interfaith special, "HIV & AIDS: Awareness & Compassion," which will be broadcast June 17. The documentary profiles the interfaith movement to assist those living with HIV/AIDS to live productive and healthy lives.

"I mean, religious people like to have sex, but they like to pretend they don't," he said. "It's a tragedy that church people would seemingly rather let their children - their baptized members - get infected than to be open and candid about how the disease is spread."

Messer, chair of the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee and founder of the Center for the Church & Global AIDS, was part of "Lighten the Burden," a United Methodist conference on HIV/AIDS on April 23 in Tampa, Fla.

Messer, as well as South African Bishop Ivan Abrahams, top executive of the World Methodist Council, spoke at the conference at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa the day before General Conference 2012, the denomination's worldwide assembly, April 24May 4.

The CBS documentary will include interviews with other religious and faith leaders as well as people living with AIDS. The special airs in advance of June 27, National HIV Testing Day, an effort coordinated by the National Association of People with AIDS, which is the oldest AIDS organization in the United States.

More Information

A list of stations scheduled to run the special program is available at "HIV & AIDS" stations. After June 17, the program may be viewed at CBS News Religion and Culture.

Learn more about the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. You can support this program by giving to UMCOR Advance #982345, United Methodist Global AIDS Fund.

The UMC resolution #3243 "The Church and the Global HIV & AIDS Pandemic" was readopted by the 2012 General Conference. The new version includes updated statistics as well as a statement endorsing needle exchange programs as a way of reducing the spread of AIDS. Click here for the updated resolution.

AIDS in South Africa

Abrahams said that after apartheid ended in South Africa, the government went through a period of "genocide by indifference" on the reality of AIDS.

"I believe in the same way that speaking about the abolition of slavery in the 18th and 19th century, so today - this is one of the main issues. It's a biblical imperative for Christians in the 21st century. It's about the preservation of the human species.

"I say with absolute sincerity that my mantra is no infections, no deaths by the year 2020. And in the same way that we've overcome measles and polio, so I believe we - we will overcome the HIV and AIDS virus. It just needs commitment - political commitment and the will of us all," Abrahams said.

Time to listen

Our faith values can make a difference whether they are Christian, Jewish or Muslim, Messer said.

"Part of the problem for the church is we haven't listened to persons with HIV and AIDS," he said.

"We have not understood what it's like to be a young gay man in America. Much less do we understand what it's like to be a gay man in Africa where you have utter brutality, and you have to stand up against the forces of society and religion.

"My goal is to move people from condemnation to compassion, from stigmatization to kind of a liberation, and to move them from apathy to action."

*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

UMNEWS-SUBSCRIPTION
Global Health
During consultations in Mabumbuza, Mozambique, mothers wait in line with their young children to receive medication at a mobile clinic led by The United Methodist Church in partnership with the Mozambique Ministry of Health. Photo by António Wilson, UM News.

United Methodist health partnership offers hope

Focusing on pregnant women and young children, church’s mobile clinic brigades serve isolated communities.
Disaster Relief
Flood survivors receive kits prepared by The United Methodist Church. Traces of mud left by the fury of the Cambambe-Dondo waters are visible. Photo by Orlando da Cruz, UM News.

United Methodists in Angola support flood survivors

Angola West Conference mobilizes to provide food and other relief as heavy rains destroy homes and other infrastructure.
Social Concerns
Demonstrators carry placards during a march against xenophobia in Johannesburg in 2015. Xenophobia — fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners — continues to be widespread in South Africa, where harassment and violence against African and Asian non-nationals are routine and sometimes lethal, according to Human Rights Watch. File photo by Mike Hutchings, Reuters.

Church takes on xenophobia in South Africa

In collaboration with the Council of Churches of South Africa, United Methodists are educating young people about xenophobic attacks and the meaning of being “foreign.”