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Greater NW Pride: World AIDS Day, 2019


World AIDS Day, 2019

As we come to the closing hours of December 1, 2019, I wanted to post a blog about World AIDS Day. In my life, I have had many friends in the Church and outside of the Church have lived and died being HIV+(positive or poz) and dying of one of the AIDS related symptoms. Some phenomenal ministers, church administrators, priests, pastors, organists, and youth directors, all close friends, have died. Those who are closest to me today, personally, are HIV+, in which the modern drugs have made being HIV+ a chronic condition rather than the death sentence of the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

Since AIDS began, 75 million people have become infected, 32 million have died. As activist Peter Staley observes: Political negligence let this happen. And the Church?
In my work in the OR-ID UMC Conference as the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Coordinator, I also hear the stories of those UMC clergy who were not only in the closet because they were LGBTQ+, but lived and died of AIDS, even though they told few people in their respective congregation that they were gay and HIV+.
There are still clergy who are in the closet who are LGBTQ+, and there are still clergy who are HIV+ and LGBTQ+ and living in the closet across the Protestant denominations and Catholic Church, around the world. This is because there is still a stigma about being LGBTQ+ and being HIV+. 
And of course, being HIV+ and living with AIDS is not a “gay disease.” Being HIV+ and living with AIDS, well, it knows no gender, no sexual orientation, no religion, no race, no disability, no socioeconomic class, no ethnicity, no age, no nationality. It is an equal opportunity epidemic.
On this World’s AIDS Day, we remember those who have lived and died being HIV+ and living with AIDS. We remember the work of ACT-UP! The work continues on, in which many ACT-UP advocates are now advocating for the global use of Truvada/Prep, which provides one more way of decreasing HIV infection. We are thankful for modern medicine. We pray for education that will meet the needs of communities in which ignorance and bigotry reign in parts of this world in regard to sex and love, let alone safe sex. And we pray for a cure, a vaccine. We pray for a world without people who are HIV+ and living with AIDS, in our lifetime.
In 2020, in my work as the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Coordinator, we will be reaching out to those who are HIV+ and LGBTQ+, especially in the young adult and high school age, in which there is still a stigma. 
The work of justice and education in this area of HIV work and LGBTQ+ integration is wide open. People are still becoming HIV+ everyday. The sigma of being HIV+ continues as well. Time to do some education, time to practice "safe practices," and, in the name of Jesus Christ, love all of God's people. May be be so. Amen.

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!