03 Dec Message of the Minister General for World AIDS Day 2018
My dear brother of the Order, members of the Franciscan family, and friends,
May the Lord give you peace!
This year is the 30th year that people of good will everywhere in the world are called to reflect on the HIV and AIDS pandemic, its impact on the entire human community, and the need for vigilance and solidarity. More than 36 million brothers and sisters live with HIV, of which nearly 2 million are children. Nearly 2 million people became newly infected in 2017. Since the virus HIV was discovered, more than 77 million have become infected while more than 35 million have died from AIDS-related illnesses. Of that number, nearly 22 million have access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy. Nearly 2 million new infections were registered in 2017. More than 77 million people have become infected with HIV since the start of the infection. Nearly 22 million people living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral therapy, a tremendous increase over previous years. Increased awareness of the virus, and increased funding for prevention and care, have helped to promote testing for early detection, which plays an important role in helping to reduce new infections. Approximately 75% of those living with HIV knew their health status but that means at 25% are unaware and, therefore, pose a threat to themselves and to others for possible transmission of the virus to those who are uninfected.
I urge all friars of the Order, all of our friends, indeed all people to deepen their – our – awareness of the HIV and AIDS pandemic. I give thanks to God for the tremendous work that members of the Order, in partnership with other agencies and individuals, have undertaken to provide spiritual, social, and medical care for those who are living with the virus, and for their families. This pandemic touches all of us since even some of our members also are living with HIV. It touches our Church and, indeed all religious organizations. For this reason, it is urgent that we seek new ways to collaborate with people of good will, and to work with other Christian denominations and interreligious partners in caring for all those living with or affected by HIV and AIDS. We also should continue to promote within our Order and the Church the eradication of the stigma that oftentimes is associated with HIV/AIDS. And we should continue to promote ethically responsible behavior change, greater access to life-saving and infection-reducing medicines, and care for families most affected by the pandemic. We also should recognize that the Catholic Church continues to provide up to 25 % of all care for those living with HIV worldwide. We should continue to build on this commitment, encouraging all of the friars of the Order to deepen their engagement on this issue and to do what St. Francis of Assisi would expect of us, what he himself did: welcome and embrace all, loving without judgment, giving his life in service in order that all those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS might experience the embrace of others who offer only acceptance, love, and solidarity.
During the month of December, I invite all of you my dear brothers to join with me, with the Church, and with other believers in offering prayer for our brothers and sisters living with HIV/AIDS, for their families, for those involved in seeking to find a cure and a vaccine, and who are helping identify vital financial resources to combat this pandemic:
Let us pray:
Good and gracious God,
You who are the author of life,
You desire that those created in your image and likeness should experience fullness of life and be set free from any and all infirmities.
We pray that your healing grace might come down upon all our brothers and sisters living with or affected by HIV and AIDS. May they feel your loving and healing touch in their lives. We pray that you guide the work of all engaged in seeking to find a cure, and for those working to develop a vaccine against this life-threatening virus. Bless also all health care workers, and all those involved in providing loving care to our brothers and sisters living with HIV or experiencing the negative effects of the virus and of prolonged use of life-saving antiretroviral drugs.
O God, strengthen also our commitment to demonstrate only love and goodness to all, most especially our brothers and sisters living with HIV/AIDS. AMEN.
Rome, 1 December 2018
Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant