Each day, 8,000 men, women, and children die as a result of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), reports the Global AIDS Alliance. In 2002, the Courier-Journal reported more than 5,000 people in Kentucky had contracted the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, ranking the state 45th in the nation for people who are actually being tested for HIV. There are more than 11,500 cases of HIV/AIDS in Indiana.
HIV/AIDS is a massive pandemic with 42 million people infected and leaving nearly 15 million children orphaned. “It is an unprecedented crisis that requires an unprecedented response,” said Kofi Annan, secretary general to the United Nations. “In particular it requires solidarity – between the healthy and the sick, between rich and poor, and above all between richer and poorer nations.”
These startling statistics have initiated a wake up call on the campus of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Andrew Black, a first-year student in the dual Master of Divinity/Juris Doctor program with LPTS and the University of Louisville, is coordinating a three-day event to encourage fellow students – future ministers – to become more aware of the HIV/AIDS problem and then seek to actively confront and prevent the crisis as part of their ministry.
The event, which coincides with World AIDS Day on December 1, is open to the public and will run through December 3. Events will include: World AIDS Day ecumenical worship, a display of portions of the Names Project national AIDS memorial quilt
, a candle light vigil, and a panel discussion with experts and leaders from churches, health care programs, counseling programs, and legal and political arenas.
Black, who launched a similar awareness/prevention campaign while serving as the assistant to the chaplain at Eckerd College, has been working with the Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association (PHEWA) of Presbyterian Church (USA) as part of his seminary studies and field education assignment. He says that the national offices, including the Presbyterian AIDS Network (PAN), will be watching closely the success of this program at Louisville Seminary. “Based on what happens here at LPTS, they would like to develop a curriculum for seminaries and universities across the nation,” Black said.
It wasn’t until 1990, with the establishment of the Ryan White CARE Act, that Congress first set aside funding to specifically address the health care needs of AIDS in the United States. Deborah Wade, director of the first HIV/AIDS clinic in Jefferson County, Ky., says such support has been extremely limited across the nation and particularly in rural areas. “Most thought AIDS was a big city disease,” said Wade, who previously served as executive director of the AIDS Services (ASC) in Anniston, Ala., the first federally funded rural clinic established in 1990.
When Wade moved to Louisville with her husband Dee H. Wade, pastor of Anchorage Presbyterian Church, she was asked to find and work with someone at the University of Louisville to write a grant for the first federally funded AIDS clinic in Kentucky. Wade worked with two Louisville doctors, and a grant was awarded to the university in 1999. Today more than 1,000 patients rely upon the support of this “multidisciplinary clinic, which includes family physicians, nurse practitioners, physicians, infectious diseases specialists, psychotherapy, social services, substance abuse counselors, a pharmacy, and referrals to HIV dental care at the university. And this facility is the only out-patient HIV/AIDS medical clinic in Jefferson County, that cares for patients regardless of income or an ability to pay,” said Wade.
Black is concerned that with such limited resources and places where individuals with HIV/AIDS can turn for help, the AIDS crisis will only grow. He believes that churches must intervene with care, offering a sense of community and guidance to those who have been marginalized, if not shunned, because they are infected and sick.
“The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) does not discriminate in who it infects. HIV infects women and men, young and old, people of color and white people, straight people and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered) people, rich people and poor people, married people and single people, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, conservatives, moderates and liberals, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. HIV transcends borders, continents, and nationalities. HIV is an equal opportunity parasite that is willing to consume and destroy all who lie in its path. HIV simply does not discriminate. Yet, when we examine how humans administrate HIV/AIDS education and prevention materials, medical care and medicines, hospital care and health insurance, we find deep-seated discrimination that cuts along the lines of race, wealth, gender, nationality, and sexuality,” said Black in a previous AIDS awareness/prevention panel presentation.
That’s why he is initiating a strong focus on the Seminary campus with support from the Seminary administration and the Presbyterian Church (USA). “It should be a part of every seminarian’s education to understand the social, moral, and spiritual ramifications of this disease. For with so many who are already infected, every pastor and minister will surely face it in the church and ministry they serve. Should the church not be a place where one can come for help? Yet, there are pastors who have refused to do the funerals of those who have died of AIDS,” said Black.
One in five people in the world – about 42 million – have AIDS. “Fear and limited education about the disease perpetuate a silence that watches as the disease spreads. It is a matter of leading one’s church to a response of compassion that is consistent with the Gospel message. It is the church that must be the voice for the marginalized. It’s a matter of waking up to a worldwide crisis, and I believe that God has a stake in this issue simply given the enormity of the situation,” said Black.
The HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention program at Louisville Seminary will be open to all, December 1-3, offering the following events and gatherings. For more information or to get involved, please contact Andrew Black at email@example.com
or by phone at 502.569.5082.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt Display
Dec. 1-3. Caldwell Chapel. 8am-10pm Daily
Experience and view this national treasure first hand. Each panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt is handmade by loved ones as a remembrance of those who have lost their life to AIDS. The AIDS Memorial Quilt has been brought to LPTS with the help of the Presbyterian AIDS Network (PAN) in conjunction with the Presbyterian Health Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
World AIDS Day Ecumenical Worship Service
December 1. Caldwell Chapel. 10 a.m.
Rev. Joe Phelps, longtime HIV/AIDS advocate, community activist and pastor of Highland Baptist Church, will be the guest preacher. Phelps is a graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Southern Seminary and served as a volunteer chaplain while at the Christopher House, an AIDS hospital in Austin,Texas. Here in Louisville, Phelps has been active in supporting AIDS ministry and has been involved in community action against violence. He is the founder of "No Murders Metro" an ecumenical organization seeking to end violence in the metro-area. He has acted as a peace advocate concerning the war in Iraq and wrote "What Would Jesus Do about Iraq?" and has served as a political voice within the community of Louisville working to examine the role of the church within politics.
Candle Light Vigil
December 2. Caldwell Chapel. 7 p.m.
A time for poems, prayers, and a reading of the names of those infected with or who have passed away as a result of HIV/AIDS. Please submit names to be read to Andrew Black at firstname.lastname@example.org
HIV/AIDS Awareness and Prevention Panel
December 3. Winn Center. 6-8 p.m.
This panel will discuss recent local and national trends in HIV/AIDS and explore why it is important for people to concern themselves with HIV/AIDS issues and what ministers and people of faith can do to address HIV/AIDS concerns.
Deborah Wade has been involved in the leadership and organization of a variety of non-profit HIV/AIDS clinics. She has worked around rural HIV/AIDS issues in Alabama, women’s issues with HIV/AIDS, and currently works with the Wings Clinic, the first federally funded clinic in Kentucky, offering services for people with HIV/AIDS without regard to income or ability to pay.
Mark Baridon is co-pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Louisville. He is an alum of LPTS and has worked with AIDS issues through a variety of capacities as chaplain and minister. Central Presbyterian Church hosts a monthly dinner for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
Jim England, D.Min., is chaplain and director of spiritual services at Hospice and Palliative care of Louisville.
Paulette Jewell is a health education specialist at Louisville Metro Health Department’s HIV Prevention Services.
Phil Garrett is director of pastoral care and counseling at AIDS Interfaith Ministries of Kentuckiana, where he leads support groups, individual counseling sessions, and HIV/AIDS retreats for those affected and infected.
Stephen Ray is Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Louisville Seminary.
Sharon Cook is a founder and director of client services for The House of Ruth, a non-profit organization designed to empower families and individuals who are affected by HIV/AIDS. Assistance comes in the form of medical care, education, spiritual support, counseling, and financial assistance.
Sister Meriam Frenke has been with the House of Ruth for eight years and is an Outreach Nurse Educator.