The challenge of living with HIV/AIDS

Cecile Ahimin Aya (left) has an HIV test during a public health screening at the Jerusalem Parish United Methodist Church in Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire, in this November 2008 file photo. The book, Religion and AIDS in Africa, by professors Jenny Trinitapoli and Alexander Weinreb, explores the role religious communities have come to play in both the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose. Accompanies UMNS story #089. 3/27/13..

Twenty years ago this month, I wrote a five-part series on AIDS for United Methodist News Service.

When I reread those stories this week, I was struck by the number of churches and individuals already involved in ministry to people with AIDS or “PWA” – a popular term back then. In fact, some 22 resolutions on AIDS education and ministry were passed by the denomination’s annual conferences in 1988.

Terry Boyd, a 39-year-old gay man with full-blown AIDS, was the subject of one of my stories. A former Catholic, he and his partner, Richard Glodo, were members of Lafayette Park United Methodist Church in St. Louis.

Terry made it clear that the support he received from his congregation not only helped him in the battle against his disease but also strengthened his faith in God – to the point where he was offering prayers of thanksgiving during what could have been the darkest period of his life. He even wrote a book on his experiences, “Coping with AIDS: A Christian Perspective.”

“I truly feel that even in the face of AIDS, I have been blessed tremendously,” he told me.

Terry died on April 17, 1990, four months after my series was published. The real challenge, he had said, was not dying of AIDS, but living with AIDS.

By the end of 2008, an estimated 33.4 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS. On this World AIDS Day 2009, and all the days afterward, United Methodists can take actions to help them deal with that challenge. One way is by contributing to the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund.

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