01 December 2011

30 Years of Waiting

30 years ago today, I was probably so excited for Christmas to get here!
30 years ago today, I was probably very annoyed with my 18 month old sister.
30 years ago today, the world had no idea what our world was about to face.

In 1981*, doctors were seeing an increase in rare diseases usually found only among the elderly, in gay men. Cancers and lung diseases began showing up that no one knew quite how to treat. Within the next year, doctors and the CDC began speculating that these diseases were actually caused by a syndrome affecting the immune system. The syndrome went through a variety of names before the term AIDS was adopted in September of 1982.

By July of 1982, a total of 452 cases of the syndrome, from 23 states had been reported to the CDC. In May of 1983, doctors at the Institute Pasteur in France reported that they had isolated a new virus, which they suggested might be the cause of AIDS.

It was around this same time that people began to develop theories about AIDS transmission. It was also around this time that I began to be aware of people's fear of AIDS. I can remember lying in my grandma's bed with her, having spent the night at her house and unable to sleep, listening to the radio late in the evening. The conversation on that talk radio show was about how we get AIDS. I remember being terrified when they mentioned that some doctors even suspected you could get it from drinking fountains and swimming pools used by AIDS-infected persons.

The world was frightened by an epidemic that was spreading quickly.
We watched as science tried to keep pace with a disease we couldn't control.

April 22, 1984, the CDC's Dr. Mason reported, "I believe we have the cause of AIDS." The very next day, the US Health & Human Services Secretary reported, "We hope to have a vaccine ready for testing in about 2 years."

As we all know, it wasn't that simple.
It still isn't.

30 years we've been living with this.
30 years it has been killing off people.
10 years or more we've known how to prevent it, how to put it into remission, and how to keep it from spreading.

And yet, we are still losing ground.
We're making progress.
But more people are diagnosed every day than are put on AntiRetroViral Therapy.

This is what World AIDS Day is about.

Since 1988, World AIDS Day has been held on December 1st worldwide.
It's about awareness.
It's about education.
It's about funding.

But for the faith community, it's also about Advent.

For 30 years we've been waiting for a day when this epidemic would be gone.
When we'd no longer have to worry.
When children would no longer lose both of their parents to disease.

It's about hope.

AIDS has - perhaps - brought this world together more than anything else in my lifetime.
Arabs, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Conservatives, Liberals, Old, Children, every color, every nation, every tribe, every socio-economic status, every culture wants AIDS eradicated. Everywhere there are disease scientists, there are people working to end this.

As a world, we long for the day when we can stand together and proclaim God's goodness in helping us to live free of this affliction.

Isaiah saw it this way:
2:2 In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.
2:3 Many peoples shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
2:4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

My deepest prayer is that when that day comes - when AIDS is finally a memory as distant as the Plague - that we will remember.

I pray we will remember the tenacity with which we worked for this.
I pray we will remember the cooperation among nations.
I pray we will remember the deep grief we felt when we first touched a square of the AIDS quilt.
I pray we will remember those who lived and died trying to fight this.
I pray we will remember that we are all on this journey together.

I pray we will find peace.

*Data taken from websites for World AIDS Day, World Health Organization, and AVERT.

No comments: