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Edgar decries increase in HIV/AIDS,
calls for more prevention

New York City-June 6, 2006- “The lightning-like spread of AIDS and HIV infection has been more than a tragedy.  It has been a catastrophe,” said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, general secretary, National Council of Churches USA. 

”Let us learn the lessons of silence,” Edgar said. “Let us learn the sin of omission can contribute to the deaths of our sisters and brothers. Let us commit to stopping this killer disease for the sake of God's world, God's creation, and God's people.”

Edgar called for more treatment and programs to educate young people.

“A disease that spreads through intravenous drug use or sexual contact can be prevented, starting with awareness and education,” Edgar said, “a crucial role the churches can play.”  The NCC general secretary noted that several faith communities began AIDS ministries in the 1980s, many of which continue.

”The church has witnessed in the name of Jesus the healer in many cities and towns in this country,” Edgar said. 

Edgar joined with the Rev. John McCullough, executive director of Church World Service, NCC’s partner relief agency.   McCullough spoke last week to the United Nations special session on AIDS, calling on “the rich nations of the world to increase production of HIV/AIDS medications for children in developing nations who are living with the disease, to increase production of medications to fight AIDS related infections; and to increase sharing of technology, research, and test data.”

”It’s the right thing to do,” said Edgar.  “Untold millions of lives are at stake.”

The text of Edgar’s statement follows:

It has been with us for more than 25 years, but when the Center for Disease Control issued its June 5, 1981 report on a newly identified immune deficiency disease, AIDS and HIV fast became household words.

The lightning-like spread of AIDS and HIV infection has been more than a tragedy.  It has been a catastrophe.  A generation of young people has been lost to this disease in Africa.  A generation of orphans now lives with an uncertain future.  Church relief groups in Africa have been ministering to the dying and to those left behind, alone, and too young to be on their own.  Our partner relief agency, Church World Service along with its global partners, has developed programs of advocacy, education, prevention, and treatment, and income generation for children and adults in Africa affected by HIV/AIDS.

The church has witnessed in the name of Jesus the healer in many cities and towns in this country, as well.  AIDS ministries developed in the 1980s.  As with Galen's plague in first century Rome, Christians in the 20th and 21st centuries have stood with the dying, to minister with them in their last days and hours on this earth.

A disease that spreads through sexual contact and intravenous drug use can be prevented, starting with awareness and education -- a crucial role the churches can play. I pray that our congregations will teach young people to treat God's incredible gift of sexuality as holy and life-affirming.  And that they will empower their young members with a
hope built on faith, creating the self-esteem that will resist the empty promises of drug use.

I join with my friend and colleague, the Rev. John McCullough, executive director of Church World Service, who last week asked the United Nations to call on "the rich nations of the world to increase production of HIV/AIDS medications for children in developing nations who are living with the disease, to increase production of medications to fight AIDS related infections; and to increase sharing of technology, research, and
test data."  It's the right thing to do.  Untold millions of lives are at stake.

Let us learn the lessons of silence.  Let us learn the sin of omission can contribute to the deaths of our sisters and brothers.  Let us commit to stopping this killer disease for the sake of God's world, God's creation, and God's people.

Contact NCC News: Daniel Webster, 212-870-2252.

 


 

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