Wednesday, December 01, 2010

World AIDS Day

Out of sight...Out of mindToday is World AIDS Day, when we're supposed to raise our awareness about this awful disease and take action against all the prejudices & stigma that comes with it.

In my opinion, most prejudices come from a lack of knowledge. You're more likely to fear something you don't know much about. You're more likely to believe extreme details about something you know little about. And you're more likely to not care when you focus on AIDS the disease, instead of the people who are affected by it and live with it.

I have had the honor of meeting and becoming friends with a guy named Michael who has lived with AIDS for over a decade. His life is harder and more complicated than I could possibly imagine...but his outlook is one of the most positive that I know. He also has the privilege of living in the United States, which makes living with AIDS much different than doing so in other parts of the world.

In short, if you're not in a developed part of the world AIDS is a death sentence.


I think some of the most powerful stories of Jesus are how he interacted with people who had diseases. Many of which were spread on touch, and fatal. There are several stories about Jesus healing lepers as he traveled...but I like the one in Matthew 8: 2-3 the best.
2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

Jesus touches him. Before he heals him.

We all understand that leprosy was spread on contact, and this person probably hadn't been touched in quite a while. Jesus put himself at risk in order to heal the man who came to him.

Jesus identified himself with the victim. Touching him sent a clear signal that Jesus was to be considered as "unclean" as the person with leprosy.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you go and swap blood with an AIDS victim. But I see Jesus' action as being larger. It's as if this small touch was a way of identifying with the leper. Of placing himself at the same level, giving himself the same vulnerabilities, the same stigma.

I think that we could all benefit from identifying and understanding the people who are affected with AIDS in addition to the disease itself.