Friday, December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day

Last year on World AIDS Day I took a few minutes to look around the DATA site ( and saw some statistics that blew me out of the water.

In Botswana, 38.8% of the population is HIV infected or has AIDS (here's an interactive map at DATA that lets you look at the percentages in the various countries) . Think about that for a minute. What if 40% of the people around you had AIDS. If you were in an elevator with 2 other people, at least one of them has AIDS. In your family, chances are at least one person has AIDS. And these numbers aren't the result of the success of anti-viral drugs in keeping people alive. The death tolls are outrageous. In Zimbabwe many of the cities have declared their cemetaries full. Not surprising, since they have 3,500 HIV related deaths a week!

It's estimated that there are currently 39.5 million people living with HIV in the world (63% of them in Africa). That number sounded familiar, so I looked some stuff up. Sure enough - that's more than the number of people in Canada.

Obviously, it's a multilayered problem. There are the health issues of treating the patients and providing medication. There are the moral issues of prevention. There are the compassion issues of dealing with the dying. There are the social issues of whole generations of Africans dying.

I'm still struggling with what to do to help. World Vision has a great list of suggestions on their site. I particularly like their project for caregiver kits and am going to try to do something about that in the new year. The One campaign has lots of suggestions as well, including resources for getting churches involved. If you're more shopping minded, check out the RED campaign (and for an added bonus, there's a message from Bono up on their site today).

But the first thing I'm going to do is to pray. Tonight there is a regular prayer gathering in my area and part of the night is set aside for the AIDS crisis in Africa. I think it's where we need to start. To intercede for the people there and for the organizations trying to make a difference. More than that though, to ask God to break our hearts for what breaks His heart. I can't help but think that what's happening in Africa is one of those things.

p.s. Thanks to Bono for bringing this to my attention and to Roy for reminding me that small groups of people can make a difference, especially if what you do is grounded in prayer.

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