CDC Finds 1 in 5 Urban Gay Men Infected with HIV; Ministries Respond
From Citizen Link:
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Thursday that one in five gay- and bisexual-identified men living in urban cities are infected by HIV – The Human Immunodeficiency Virus – and nearly half of them don’t realize it.
The Associated Press reported:
“Cities in the study include Baltimore, where the prevalence rate (of being infected with HIV) among men who have sex with men was highest at 38 percent, and Atlanta, where it was lowest at 6 percent. … A CDC spokeswoman said the recent study’s findings were similar to those of a National Health Behavioral Study conducted between June 2004 and April 2005, when one in four gay men tested positive for the virus. But the percentage of minorities who tested positive changed dramatically in the three years since the previous study.”
Penny Dugan, founder and director of New Jerusalem Missions, said that today’s churches need to see this as a vitally important ministry opportunity. The most effective way to minister to people with AIDS is to love and befriend them, she said.
“Diseases are a part of life and a part of the world that we live in. As Christians, we need to not fear them. We need to be right there. That’s where Jesus was,” Dugan said. “(HIV/AIDS) is affecting our teenagers now. It’s affecting families. It’s rapidly growing. As the body of Christ, it’s a place we should be.”
Jonathan Hunter, director of Embracing Life Ministries, said AIDS makes one starkly aware of his or her mortality.
“We’re there to extend encouragement, healing and Christian discipleship for those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, Lupus, other life-altering conditions,” he said. “We do that by providing equipping seminars for the church, as well as leadership training to raise up people to lead small groups for people struggling with these life-altering conditions.”
Dugan said that ministering to HIV patients is as simple as becoming a friend to them.
“Listening and just serving them. Being willing to not judge and help them with their physical, emotional and spiritual needs, “Dugan said. “That’s basically our mission statement.”
Hunter added that it is such a natural evangelistic opportunity.
“There is somebody who won’t desert you,” Hunter tells patients. “It’s somebody that I know now as part of my life and that’s Jesus Christ.”