Tuesday, July 29

Not just a problem somewhere else

I came across this article from CNN today that paints a pretty bleak picture about AIDS in the African American community here in the United States.

Because of the availability of drugs to fight the disease and the understanding of how the disease is spread, it is easy to think of AIDS as a disease that really is only a problem someplace else. And it is the crisis in Africa that grabs most of the media attention. While the Church was later than it should have been when it comes to helping to ease the suffering of the victims of AIDS and those left behind when a victim dies, now that the Church has become involved, it is doing some significant things. Groups like Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and World Vision are doing some very good work trying to help deal with the effects of AIDS.

But all of the attention and the ministry effort seems to be targeted at Africa. Because of this, it is easy to underestimate the problems that still exist here at home. The reality is that AIDS is just as serious a problem among African Americans as it is in places in Africa. According to 2006 figures from the Centers for Disease Control, 50% of all people in the United States with AIDS are black, even though African Americans make up only 1/8th of the population. AIDS is the leading cause of death for African American women age 25-34 and the second leading cause of death for African American men age 35-44.

In Washington, D.C., 80% of all HIV cases are among African Americans. All told, 5% of the population of Washington, D.C., is HIV positive. Put another way, if you take 20 random people from Washington, 1 of them will be HIV positive. That infection rate is comparable to the rates in Uganda or South Africa. Let those figures sink in for a second. They are astounding.

It is a good thing that the followers of Christ are trying to make an impact on the crisis caused by AIDS in Africa. Some people will argue that Christians were late in stepping up to the plate. While that may be true, to me that is all water under the bridge at this point. We can’t change the past, but Christians are involved now and are trying to make a difference both today and in the future. That’s great. However, followers of Christ can’t simply focus our efforts on AIDS issues in Africa. While AIDS may be problem in Africa, it isn’t an African problem. It is a problem that touches, in a very similar way, at least some groups of people much closer to home. It is time for us to get more involved in helping address the problems and ease the suffering here at home, and not just half a world away.

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