HIV and the Church

By Pastor Bill Mugford

Why Don’t We Churches Start HIV&AIDS Ministries? Part 2b • Challenging Denial

In previous part of this blog series, we stated that both people in our community and many Christians still live in denial about HIV&AIDS, and it is crucially important to inform denial with factual education and transform denial with theological wisdom.  Three  ways we are in denial were covered in Part 2a.  Here are two more to insights that give us pause for thought and inspiration for action.

4.  We live in denial when we say that HIV&AIDS is “no longer a threat…”

Numbers do not lie:

Worldwide 2011 statistics indicate…

• At least 34 million people are living with HIV&AIDS today;

• More than 31 million have died of AIDS-related disease;

• 2.7 million new infections annually;

• 1.8 AIDS-related deaths annually;

• 14.8 million eligible, but only 8 million receiving treatment.

United States 2011 statistics (CDC) reveal…

• 1.2 million adults and children living with HIV&AIDS;

• 650,000 AIDS-related deaths since 1980;

• 21,600 AIDS-related deaths, adults and children;

• 1 in 5, 240,000 people do not know they are infected;

• 50,000 new infections annually;

• Only 28% get regular care and have their virus under control.

While the rate of HIV infection worldwide has been declining in recent years, there is anecdotal evidence to show that it may actually be growing again.  The culprits here are:

• Lack of continuing education about HIV&AIDS and other STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections);

• Popular and unfounded notions that because we don’t hear much anymore about the ravages of HIV&AIDS, “a cure has been found and the HIV&AIDS threat is over;”

• A naive attitude that HIV&AIDS and its consequences are minimal and “all you have to do is take a pill;” and…

• Failure to admit that HIV&AIDS has a primarily behaviorally-based solution: To stay HIV&AIDS-Free, don’t have unprotected sex and/or share injectable drugs with an HIV+ person.

Current field research suggests that the number of infections is increasing in our youth (sexual experimentation), seniors (the “Viagra effect”), and among heterosexuals in North America.  Latest statistics and information may be found at , and

5.  We live in denial when we think that people living with HIV&AIDS are “not in my backyard…”

When it comes to HIV&AIDS, NIMBY (“not in my back yard”) is a fantasy!  NIMBY is used here as a pejorative characterization of a new idea or reality because it shakes up perceived opinion, wisdom or reality.   NIMBY denies and closes doors to the reality that people living with HIV&AIDS are all around us!

What do huge Washington DC, and much smaller Guilford County, North Carolina have in common?  They both have more than 460 cases per 100,000 population of people diagnosed as living with an HIV infection.  In fact, there are very few places in the United States that do not have diagnosed cases of HIV&AIDS, and some of the “hot spots” on the map are in some of the most unexpected places.  To picture the number of diagnosed HIV&AIDS cases in your city and community, visit for an insightful, sobering, interactive experience. 

Most importantly, AIDSVU can become a ministry tool because it shows us that people living with HIV&AIDS and their families and friends live next to us and the churches we attend.  HIV&AIDS is a pandemic: one of the most significant threats to human existence as we know it, therefore the most significant issue in the church’s pastoral care ministry both now and in the foreseeable future.  Many people living with HIV&AIDS and their families and friends would be delighted to have a positive contact from you and ministry delivered by your church.  If we truly care for people who God loves and for whom Christ died and rose again, then we cannot help but offer ourselves and our churches for people living with HIV&AIDS and their families and friends in our front, side and back yards!

Don’t miss the next installments, which deal with denial in our faith communities about HIV&AIDS.

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