World AIDS Day – December 2006

We do not celebrate “World AIDS Day” – however, we do observe this day and offer our prayers for all those infected and all those affected by HIV –AIDS throughout the world.

Some 25 million people – men, women, and children – have died since 1981 when this pandemic was first recognized.  In 25 years, 25 million deaths! While new medical cocktails have enabled millions to “live” with AIDS, – and there are an estimated 40 million people today throughout the world who live with this disease, – this year alone almost 3 million people have died.  Africa is especially affected – with entire villages populated by orphans, left fatherless and motherless, because of this disease.

But, HIV-AIDS does not infect just people in far away countries; it infects people in our community, members of our parishes – of our families.  Infected or not, we all are affected.

The theme of this year’s observance is “Stop AIDS:  Keep the Promise”.
In Spanish, the theme is rendered: Es tiempo de cumplir.

El lema, Es Tiempo de Cumplir, pone de relieve la necesidad constante de proporcionar estrategias eficaces de prevención y tratamiento del VIH a comunidades de todo mundo. Veinticinco años después de la aparición de las primeras noticias sobre lo que más tarde se conocería como SIDA la magnitud de esta epidemia exige una mayor responsabilidad de las partes implicadas en el cumplimiento de sus compromisos, ya sean financieros, programáticos y políticos.

Aunque disponer de más recursos y continuar la investigación científica son factores esenciales para lograr una respuesta mundial eficaz, el lema reconoce que ya existen conocimientos y herramientas científicas suficientes para evitar nuevas infecciones y prolongar la vida de las personas que viven con el VIH/SIDA, incluso en los contextos más pobres.

Como católicos nos unimos a esta lucha con el SIDA para que así demos un testimonio de esperanza, afirmando la dignidad de cada ser humano, sea lo que sea su condición de salud, y a la vez, haciéndonos solidarios con los que viven con esta infección.

As Catholics we participate in this international observance as men and women of faith – our faith is founded on Jesus Christ, who as today’s gospel assures us, does keep his promise.  It is his promise that allows us to be witnesses of hope even in the middle of the great pain and heartbreak experienced by those who are infected and those who are affected by HIV-AIDS.

And this is why we, as Catholic, participate in this annual observance.  We do so, first, to uphold the dignity of people living with HIV and AIDS.

  • The stigma associated with this disease has undermined the dignity of those infected.
  • And that stigma has led many people to avoid taking the steps necessary for them to seek treatment and at the same time it has cause many, whether because of fear or prejudice to turn their backs on both those infected and those affected by HIV-AIDS.

As Catholics we must uphold the dignity of every human person, from the moment of conception to natural death. Every human being has a dignity that is God given, for he or she is made is his image and likeness; and God cares for every human being, he care enough to give us his son as our redeemer and savior.

Our participation then at this Mass is one way to witness to our belief, founded in the gospel – in those words of Jesus that will never pass away – that every human being has worth. Also, our participation today is an experience of the Church’s solidarity with all those affected by this pandemic.  Our solidarity must be affective and effective as well.  We pray with affection for those who suffer the consequences of this modern day plague, asking the Lord to console the sick and their families. We also pray for the care givers – the doctors, nurses, home health aides, the scientists, the educators, the relatives of the infected – all those who show an effective solidarity to those living with HIV-AIDS .

The Catholic Church has sought to serve those affected by HIV/AIDS – and has done so in many ways, especially through the Church’s network of health care providers. 25% of those living with AIDS are looked or cared for by institutions of the Catholic Church or Non-governmental organizations sponsored by the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church has sought to serve those affected by HIV/AIDS – and has done so in many ways, especially through the Church’s network of health care providers. In Africa, in South America and the Caribbean, the Catholic Church is often the major player in providing medical assistance, shelter, and pastoral care to people living with HIV or left orphaned by the ravages of this disease.

This is true also in the U.S.; and, we Catholics in the U.S. support the efforts of the Church worldwide in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS and in ministering to those living with it through programs sponsored by our own Catholic Relief Services. But, if we are to “stop aids”, we have many more promises to keep. –One of the most important promises is to continue to educate people about HIV-AIDS.

Education continues to be the only effective “vaccine” to combat denial, ignorance and prejudice which places all people at risk. And the most effective education is education which respects the truth about man, his dignity and his eternal vocation. For this reason, while the Church is engaged in giving medical care, and in educating about the risks factors that expose one to this disease, she also must do so in a way which is coherent with the gospel which she is to proclaim fearlessly in season and out of season. This is a promise we, as Catholics, must keep if we are to stop AIDS.

La educación continua siendo la única “vacuna” eficaz para combatir la ignorancia, el rechazo y el prejuicio que pone a todas las personas en riesgo. La Iglesia Católica mundialmente ha respondido a los muchos enfermos a través de su red de asistencia médica. Y la Iglesia esta comprometido a continuar sus esfuerzos en esta área y al mismo tiempo esta comprometido a educar las personas para que en el futuro haya menos personas infectadas. Y, como Iglesia, tenemos que cumplir con este compromiso de educar según la verdad sobre la persona humana, pues una educación basada en la verdad sobre la persona humana es la mejor para combatir esta pandemia.

  • We thank God that Catholics have been on the forefront in providing care especially in the developing world.  And we pray that God will sustain them as they keep their promise to witness to Christ’s compassion – and may they always know of our encouragement of their efforts on behalf of “the least of the Lord’s brethren”.
  • Pope Benedict XVI reminded us in his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, that for the Christian the works of charity as not optional but are integral to our commitment to the Lord.  We can and must do our part to stop AIDS by keeping the promise implied in our baptism to perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  At the same time, we must remain committed to avoid on our part any discrimination towards those who have been affected.

On Sunday, we begin Season of Advent, a season filled with the joyful expectation of the coming of our Lord.

El domingo comienza el tiempo de Adviento.  Es tiempo de cumplir – pues, adviento celebra el cumplimiento de las promesas de nuestro Dios al enviarnos su único Hijo como Salvador. Adviento debe inspirarnos a todos para que tengamos una mayor esperanza en conseguir una cura y una solidaridad mas comprometida con todos que se sienten abandonados o solos a causa de esta enfermedad.

May the promise of Advent inspired in all of us, the infected and the affected, renewed hope for a cure, renewed commitment to the care of one another, and continued solidarity with those who because of this disease feel especially alone or abandoned.