World AIDS Day is commemorated on 1st of December each year to remind us that HIV has not gone away. This is a time we remember the people we have lost, we give thanks for the progress we have made and commit ourselves anew to ensuring that no one is left behind. The theme for 2020 is Global solidarity, shared responsibility. While the world has made some progress in dealing with HIV/AIDS, there is still a long way to go to achieve the 90-90-90 (now actually 95-95-95) i.e.:
- By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.
- By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.
- By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
All this, has been prolonged to 2030, with 95-95-95. Therefore this theme is most relevant, we need a global solidarity whereby all citizens of the world are in solidarity with each other in decisively dealing with HIV/AIDS; in a way similar to what we are doing with COVID-19. We need to be collectively responsible for the prevention and cure of HIV/AIDS.
It is unfortunate that even today, after so many years of awareness campaign about HIV/AIDS, we still have people stigmatised, ostracised and rejected because of this virus. Many of our community advocates from our sites still witness people who are not willing to be tested because of fear of stigmatisation (so they remain without knowing their status even when all signs of HIV are so obvious); some are forced into defaulting because they are ostracised; while some are not supported at all, and they lapse as well.
The Gospel today says: In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
The world needs the mind of babies, in order to get this revelation. It is the Father’s gracious will to reveal good news to the simple minds and hearts. Simple mind and heart is wedded with humility, the queen of virtues, because humility inclines the heart towards grace and truth. Humility is the only soil in which the grace of God can take root. It alone takes the right attitude before God and allows him as God to do all. The Book of Proverb says: God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. In front of this theme, global solidarity, shared responsibility, we have to say that the grace of Christ-like humility inclines us towards God and disposes us to receive God’s wisdom, grace, and help.
Our contribution as a Church, in an effort to mitigate the spread of HIV/AIDS, bears a testimony of our faith that we are God’s beloved creatures and that our names are written in heaven, as Luke says. We have been in this field for ages; starting when our government was still in denial of this pandemic in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Catholic Church, through SACBC AIDS Office was a source of hope, a reason to trust in God; a pillar of strength to the sick and dying. All those hospices which were established in those years were a sign of shared responsibility and solidarity with the poor, needy and dying.
Today, especially during this period of Advent, when the masses of our people are facing indifference and stigma, defaulting in taking medication, we cannot shy away from the Christian fellowship and solidarity. We have to re-commit ourselves to the annunciation of good news like Prophet Isaiah: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
Pope Francis, visiting the Good Samaritan Home in Panama last year during World Youth Day, said to the people living with HIV in that home: “Good Samaritan, whether in the parable or in all of your homes, shows us that our neighbour is first of all a person, someone with a real, particular face, not something to avoid or ignore, whatever his or her situation may be. A home for people living with HIV confirms people’s faith by anointing wounds, renewing hope and encouraging faith.”
Fr Patrick Rakeketsi CSS
SACBC Director of AIDS Office
For more information kindly contact: Fr Patrick Rakeketsi CSS – +27 73 380 5629