HIV and AIDS: Keeping the Promise and Making the Connections was the topic of a panel discussion by four openly gay pastors at the Believe Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) 25th General Conference at the Fairmont Hotel July 5.
Rev. Renee McCoy, assistant director of prevention education at Lifelong AIDS Alliance and member of MCC's public policy team; Rev. Jim Merritt, public policy team director of marriage equality and relational issues, along with Rev. Robert Griffin and Rev. Jorge Delgado-Rivas, members of MCC's public policy team, spoke to about 35 people about the current status of the global fight against HIV/AIDS and the connections to a broader health care and wellness strategy.
McCoy noted that the rate of new HIV infections will end soon but that will only happen if people look at the disease from a global perspective. Worldwide, the rate of infection among newborns is decreasing as well as deaths resulting from HIV/AIDS infections, said McCoy. McCoy shared that some areas of the world are not seeing decreases in the rates of HIV/AIDS infections including the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
"We have to eliminate stigma and discrimination by promoting love. ... Local (MCC) churches have to move HIV/AIDS a little bit higher up on our agenda," said McCoy. McCoy called on the MCC church to talk about what it means to have a healthy sexual life including condom use.
Delgado-Rivas shared that 30 million people have already died of AIDS and 30 million are currently infected with HIV/AIDS. Also, 97 percent of the people with HIV/AIDS are poor or low income, said Delgado-Rivas. "This disease is an economic and social disease ... rates of infection are stable and deaths have gone down but that doesn't mean the problem has gone away," said Delgado-Rivas.
Merritt shared his story of coming out while in a Baptist Seminary and his HIV/AIDS pastoral care work at his church in Gainesville, Fla.
Griffin said that funding for HIV/AIDS prevention is the key to helping eradicate the disease and it's important to know if your legislators and other elected officials support increased funding.
A Q&A session followed the panel discussion.
See www.mccchurch.org/ministries/global-justice and www.facebook.com/pages/The-Global-Justice-Institute/236336679715544 for more information.