Today is World AIDS Day. It’s a poignant day. A time to remember all those who have died from HIV/AIDS; an estimated 40 million people worldwide. A time to remember all those who are living with the virus. It is estimated that there are 1.2 million people in the US living with HIV/AIDS.
In the years since the 1980’s when AIDS erupted on the US scene we have learned a lot about the disease. But the disease has also taught us much. We have learned about prejudice. We have learned about how prejudice influences funding. We have learned about how prejudice fosters unfounded fears. We have learned about how prejudice affects access to health care. We have learned about stereotyping, and ostracizing, and stigmatizing. I suspect things would have unfolded much differently with HIV/AIDS if the first population hit in the US had been white, male, heterosexual CEO’s!
When it comes to sickness and prejudice, Jesus tried to teach some of the same lessons that we have been shown by HIV/AIDS. In his day, people thought illness and disabilities and birth defects were divine punishment for sin. Jesus rejected that idea. People who were sick were thought to be bad in some way. That’s why they got sick. So others stayed away from them. They were bad. They were unclean. You didn’t want to associate with disreputable types. If you were sick or had a disability, you were sidelined, pushed off to the margins of the community. Jesus rejected all of that. Stories in the gospels tell of crowds of people coming to Jesus for healing. He did not send them away. He had compassion on them. All of them. Regardless of ethnicity, religion, citizenship, income, gender, sexual identity, age, or culture. Sounds like universal health care!
For reflection: Can you think of a time when you were not well and you felt that you were treated in a degrading manner? Or ignored? Or did not get the proper care? Have you found yourself resisting reaching out to someone who is sick or dying? Maybe by giving this some thought, we will see some of our prejudices and work to eradicate them.
Prayer: We think of Jesus having compassion upon all who were sick, or disabled, or dying. May we realize that healthcare is not a privilege but a right and should not be contingent upon income or location. As Christians we pray for the courage to overcome our prejudices and fears and blanket the world with compassionate care. Amen.