by Jared Vazquez, Associate Director of International Diversity and Inclusion
and Rev. Tory Topjian, Working Group Leader
In a recent conversation with an MCC clergy person, MCC was described as having had three defining stages during its 50 years. One of those stages was described as “The AIDS Church,” and appropriately so. During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s in the United States, MCC churches were among the first who welcomed and cared for those living with and dying from HIV/AIDS. MCC Lesbian clergy and lay siblings were at the forefront in providing care for those in our LGBTQ+ communities. MCC was also one of the first faith communities providing burial and funeral rites when other churches would not do so. It is a history that runs deep in MCC.
This weekend, on 1st December, we observe the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Beginning in 1988, with the World Health Organization leading the way, World AIDS Day has been raising awareness of HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention. Today this work is largely led by UNAIDS, an organization that has worked tirelessly since 1996 to stop the spread of HIV, and has as their goal to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. UNAIDS reports that in 2017, 1.8 million people became newly infected with HIV, and that nearly 9.5 million people did not know they were living with HIV. For this reason UNAIDS has named as their theme for 2018 “Know Your Status.” Each of us plays a part in stopping the spread of HIV, and it begins with regular testing and engaging in safer sex practices. This includes having open and honest conversations with our friends and family about HIV prevention, and with our sex partners about our HIV status.
Another organization that is an international leader in ending the stigma around HIV/AIDS is the Prevention Access Campaign. Their Undetectable=Untransmittable campaign aims to “empower people with and vulnerable to HIV with accurate and meaningful information about their social, sexual, and reproductive health.” Research has shown again and again that when those living with HIV are on effective treatment HIV can be reduced to undetectable levels making them incapable of transmitting HIV to sexual partners. You can learn more about Undetectable=Untransmittable, and access resources at www.preventionaccess.org. Ending the stigma is crucial to stoping the spread of HIV.
What can you do to help stop the spread of HIV and show your support of our siblings living with HIV/AIDS in MCC and the world?
Find a local World AIDS Day event in your community and attend.
Keep literature and information on HIV AIDS treatment and prevention in your church, along with free condoms.
#RockTheRibbon this weekend on Saturday, and Sunday at church.
Create a liturgy that centers the experience of those living with HIV/AIDS and use language that honors their dignity and reduces stigma.
And the list goes on.
Below you will find a link to some helpful resources. These resources are only one example of what your church might do to observe World AIDS Day. MCC churches around the world have observed World AIDS Day for years, each in their own way that is unique to their community. Rev. Tory and I would love to receive examples and photos of how your church and community observed this day so that we can showcase on Facebook the ways in which we commemorate World AIDS Day as a global community.
You will also find a link to the HIV/AIDS resource page on the MCC website. However, much of the information on this page is out of date. Rev. Tory and I are seeking volunteers to join the HIV/AIDS Working Group to help up update this page and keep it updated, as well as to help in the creation of resources for 2019. If you are passionate about HIV/AIDS education, treatment, and prevention, we ask that you consider joining the HIV/AIDS Working Group.
For information about joining the working group, please email us! We look forward to hearing from you.
Together in the struggle for ending the stigma and spread of HIV/AIDS,
Jared and Rev. Tory
Associate Director of International Diversity and Inclusion: [email protected]
Rev. Tory Topjian
Working Group Leader: