Today is World AIDS Day. On this day we hope to draw attention to the need for awareness and action around HIV/AIDS. The theme to this year’s World AIDS Day is Universal Access and Human Rights, through the Light for Rights Campaign. “The Light For Rights campaign strives to underscore this year’s focus on HIV and human rights by encouraging people in cities around the world to dim the lights on key landmarks to remember the devastating affect AIDS has had on us all, and to turn the lights back on to illuminate the fundamental human rights we all share but that are often denied people living with HIV.” This evening around world large cities will dim the lights in buildings and then light them up in red as a reminder of what today is. This year’s campaign calls on the world to fight for human rights around our world as it is clear that the lack of human rights for people in underdeveloped nations especially, is exacerbating the spread of HIV/AIDS. The numbers are alarming. According to lightforrights.org “a total of 33 million people now live with HIV/AIDS. Two million of them are under the age of 15. Every day 7,397 people contract HIV—308 every hour.” There is a desperate need to act. “More than two-thirds (67 percent) of all people living with HIV, 22 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa—including 90 percent of the world’s HIV-positive children.” The lack of medication to treat those who are HIV positive is a sad statement about the unwillingness for the global community to be called into action.
Now the temptation is to assume that we cannot make much of a difference.
Robert F Kennedy once said “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope… and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” This is true. We, all of us together, can make a difference. We must also act because we are the Body of Christ. St. Paul offers this in 1st Corinthians 12.
“For example, the body is one unit and yet has many parts. As all the parts form one body, so it is with Christ. By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether we are Jewish or Greek, slave or free, God gave all of us one Spirit to drink.
As you know, the human body is not made up of only one part, but of many parts. Suppose a foot says, “I’m not a hand, so I’m not part of the body!” Would that mean it’s no longer part of the body? Or suppose an ear says, “I’m not an eye, so I’m not a part of the body!” Would that mean it’s no longer part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? So God put each and every part of the body together as he wanted it. How could it be a body if it only had one part? So there are many parts but one body.
An eye can’t say to a hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” The opposite is true. The parts of the body that we think are weaker are the ones we really need. The parts of the body that we think are less honourable are the ones we give special honour. So our unpresentable parts are made more presentable. However, our presentable parts don’t need this kind of treatment. God has put the body together and given special honour to the part that doesn’t have it. God’s purpose was that the body should not be divided but rather that all of its parts should feel the same concern for each other. If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts share its suffering. If one part is praised, all the others share in its happiness.
So today we pray for the will and the vision to do what we can to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. It is so true that we all suffer when one suffers. Today we pray to have the courage to speak out against negative and hurtful attitudes that continue to stigmatize those who are living with HIV/AIDS. We need to fight ignorance and prejudice as they are fuelling the spread of this disease. I am not sure who said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Today is as good a day as any other for us to speak up, to educate, to embrace, to reach out, to heal, and to proclaim that we care.