As people of faith — ordained ministers — we must continue to respond with decisive action and strategic thought. The lives of our loved ones literally hang in the balance. Too many have sacrificed too much for us to turn our backs on those with HIV/AIDS or on the memory of those we’ve lost. As people of deep faith and good conscience, you can’t either.
African Americans and Latino people know all too well the disproportionate effects of HIV/AIDS. Even today, with life-prolonging drug cocktails helping more and more people with HIV/AIDS live healthier lives, stigma and discrimination still rear their ugly heads.
One has to wonder if it is truly safe to come to our places of worship and disclose our HIV status. Will such personal disclosures be met by compassion, hope and unconditional love, or silence, fear and judgment? There is a critical need for our places of worship to continue to be a prophetic witness for God’s unfailing and unconditional love.
As we continue to fight HIV/AIDS, we must never forget those we’ve lost. The early days of the epidemic were filled with irrational fear, and consequently many suffered in silence, alone when they needed their faith community the most. We watched our friends and family members get sick and die, and we thought we were alone. Thirty years later, we know we’re not alone. But the crisis is not over.
Many churches walked boldly into the night of our silence, feeding, housing, administering health care and spiritual support to people affected and infected by HIV. Today the call for loving, inclusive and affirming ministries is just as needed as it was when we first learned of HIV 30 years ago.
President Obama has a historic national strategy on HIV and AIDS. He is asking us to be a part of this strategy. It is up to us to ensure the fight against HIV and AIDS that unknowingly started over 30 years ago, wages on.
We call to our fellow ministers and ministries to eradicate discrimination, in all forms, from our communities and places of worship. LGBT people have always been a part of our faith journey. We know LGBT people are created in the likeness and image of God.
A new day is dawning where we can live our lives with integrity and dignity, facing every challenge head on, never needing to suffer in silence again. HIV and AIDS remains a crisis. But we can come together so that one day — perhaps soon — this crisis will see its end.
Will you join us in being a part of history?
Editor’s note: Rev. Dr. Kenneth Samuel is senior pastor at Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain, Ga. Rev. MacArthur Flournoy is associate director of the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign.
The White House LGBT Conference on HIV/AIDS is underway today at Atlanta’s Morehouse School of Medicine. GA Voice Deputy Editor Dyana Bagby is covering the conference; check back at www.thegavoice.com for her report.
Photos: Rev. Dr. Kenneth Samuels (above) and Rev. MacArthur Flournoy (below). (courtesy of HRC)