December 1, 2012. The Seventh-day Adventist church in the Southern Africa Indian Ocean region commemorates another World AIDS Day. Mrs Rhoda Nthani, highlighted that we are not willing to let this day pass without a historic declaration of the intention of the Seventh-day Adventist church to de-stigmatize those living with HIV AIDS. She said: “We desire to reveal the redemptive love of Christ and we need to separate the disease from the issue of morality, demonstrating a compassionate, positive attitude toward persons with AIDS, offering acceptance and love, and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. We should feel ashamed when we see social rejection of people who have AIDS.”
Twelve years ago, in his closing address to the 2000 International AIDS Conference in Durban, Nelson Mandela issued an impassioned call to arms against the epidemic threatening the life of this continent. He said, “We need – and there is increasing evidence of African resolve to fight this war. Others will not save us if we do not primarily commit ourselves.” In line with this call, the Trans-Orange Conference (TOC), in the territory of Southern Africa, made this a day to remember and invited several of their churches in their conference to a Conference Centre in Henley-On Klip, Randvaal – to launch the Association for Adventist People living with HIV and AIDS. The document for the formation of Associations for Adventist People Living with the HIV and AIDS (AAPLHA) was also introduced and will be adopted later this month and members were elected to lead this group.
The meeting was attended by the TOC Leadership, a representative of the SAU, AAIM Coordinator, the SID AAIM HIV Coordinator as well as the General Conference Coordinators for the HIV and AIDS work in Africa, Doctors: Oscar and Euginia Giordano .
The aim of the meeting was to join the world in making our church community, as well as those around us, aware that HIV and AIDS is still with us and that we will continue to support efforts to have ZERO new infections, ZERO discrimination and ZERO AIDS related deaths in line with the UNAIDS world Goal.
Activities that took place at this meeting included a Candle-lighting ceremony to remember those of our loved ones that have been lost to the scourge of the HIV and AIDS. Those who have been affected and infected by the virus also gave many uplifting and touching testimonies. Two dear sisters and soldiers of the cross, Euginia Keebine and Dimakatso Mookodi openly declared that they have lived with the virus for fifteen and ten years respectively and they encouraged every one to do the same. They testified that through it all, God has been with them and they can bear witness of his many blessings in their lives.
AAIM Coordinators who were present, and those in the entire Division, are encouraged to go and share this information and organize the Associations as it is one way to combat the stigma which still exists in our church today. Dr Giordano, who highlighted this scourge of stigma in a touching presentation, also made available a newsletter with information on how churches can go about forming the AAPLHA. Members and Leaders are called upon to contact their AAIM coordinators at Union, Conference or Church level who will provide more information and help through the process.
Dr Paul Ratsara, President of the Southern Africa Indian Ocean Division, commented that the AIDS crisis provides pastors lay-leaders the opportunity to speak publicly about AIDS, sexuality, the sanctity and beauty of marriage, interpersonal relationships, and about health practices which provide a barrier against acquiring AIDS. In advocating and educating regarding behaviors that prevent the transmission of HIV, pastors and lay-leaders demonstrate the love and compassion of God in their Seventh-day Adventist ministry.” We must be adequately informed as to the dangers of AIDS and how it is spread. We must use that information to protect ourselves as well as share with others the information on prevention.
Rhoda Nthani agrees that Seventh-day Adventist church members and employees have a Christian obligation to respond to and treat people suffering with AIDS as Jesus our Savior treated the sick and outcast. Tragically, the world responds to AIDS sufferers as it once did to lepers – as sinful carriers of death to be shunned and isolated. But God in Jesus gave us His response. He went out of His way, often walking for several days, just to touch and heal a person afflicted with leprosy. He always offered love, acceptance and forgiveness to those afflicted by religious pride and other sins of the day. Through His redemptive love He offered life and freedom from the burden of sin. The Seventh-day Adventist Church seeks to engage in the ministry of Christ. It must respond with love and acceptance when dealing with all people, including those with AIDS.
As you consider standing up for Christ and openly declaring your status, be encouraged, for Christ says in Isaiah 41:10 “Fear Not, For I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my Righteous Hand.”
The Seventh-day Adventist church share the following recommendations to fight STIs and HIV-AIDS:
1) Promote education on sexuality according to biblical principles, and prevention on STIs and HIV-AIDS.
2) Uphold the ideal of abstinence from premarital sex
3) Advocate premarital HIV testing for both potential partners as part of the church-based preparation for marriage
4) Elevate God’s ideal for faithfulness in marriage
5) Encourage Voluntary Counseling and Testing for understanding and early diagnosis on STIs, and HIV-AIDS
6) Use of protective measures against sexually transmitted
diseases, including HIV.
For Guidelines for formulation of policy on HIV AIDS click here
SID COMMUNICATION – WE CONNECT