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Greater NW Pride: World AIDS Day 2018


World AIDS Day 2018

December 1 was World’s AIDS Day. Dec. 1 was founded as World AIDS Day in 1988. We have had 30 years of World’s AIDS Day, in which this is a day to unite against HIV, with people showing their support for people living with HIV, as well as to commemorate those people who have died. Currently, there are approximately 34 million people who have the virus, which was first identified in 1984. Over 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS. 
These are the facts.
Then there are the men and women I know who have died with complications from AIDS-related deaths who I remember this day. They are mostly gay men, and young lives, though HIV/AIDS does not discriminate in terms of infecting all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, age, socioeconomic background, gender, ability or disability, or sexual orientation. Incredibly talented men. Bob was a fantastic youth group leader in a large Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, NC.  His heart and call to youth work was hard to beat. There was David, an incredibly talented organist and choir director who worked at Princeton Seminary. And there were others. I’ve seen their names and stories embroidered in beautiful quilts as part of the quilt project.
Then there are the men I am close to who I know and love, today, who are HIV+ . Because of the marvels of medicine and living healthy lives, these handsome and interesting men are alive and living full lives, to the point that I have a hard time keeping up with them. I love you all.   
World’s AIDS Day is important, because people are still becoming HIV positive because of a lack of education about sex, failure of needle exchange programs, and because of many of the new medicines to prevent HIV/AIDS transmission like Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP)are not available in other parts of the world, or because the medicine is very expensive even in industrial societies, making it hard to attain for those not on health care plans. 
While much of the news in the UMC has been on the various plans that will be presented before the General Conference in 2019 in regard to LGBTQ ordination and marriage within the UMC, I’ve seen scant attention in the UMC news media on this recognition of World AIDS Day. Hopefully, in 2019, the UMC will turn a spotlight on World AIDS Day, because we are still fighting prejudice, stigmas, and discrimination for those who are HIV . So, here’s to World AIDS Day, 2018! May we all work towards ending this most destructive pandemic in world history today, and all our days until it is eradicated!

Brett Webb-Mitchell
Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell is an openly gay Presbyterian pastor in the Portland area serving as the part-time LGBTQ+ advocacy coordinator for The Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC. He can be reached at brett@umoi.org. Become a subscriber to the Greater NW Pride blog to get Greater NW Pride in your email box!