HIV and the Church

At what point do I realize I’m being judgmental? And if I know I struggle with being judgemental, what would it take to shift my perspective? For Doree, that tipping point was when a young man living with HIV hugged her and called her mom.

Doree Arzadon is a college biology teacher. She has a PhD in agriculture and plant pathology, with viruses as her specialty. It is easy to see how this background would offer a unique perspective to Doree's teaching, but she never dreamed it would play such an important role in transforming how she saw people.

Doree serves faithfully in the prayer ministry and as a Class 201 assistant at Saddleback Church in South Manila. While she has been a Christian since her own days in university, Doree has silently struggled in certain areas of her faith. For a long time, Doree has looked down on those living with HIV & AIDS, feeling as though they may deserve this disease as a result of their own moral irresponsibility.

The Miracle of Mercy turned those perceptions upside down. This year every Saddleback campus participated in the Miracle of Mercy. The in-depth study showed participants what the Bible teaches about mercy. Like many others, Doree came to realize it was time to change her perspective, as well as her actions. As she studied the curriculum Doree began to wonder if she was too judgmental, and began to examine her own motives. The lessons on mercy helped her become less critical of others. She has learned to be more kind and understanding.

During the Miracle of Mercy, Saddleback South Manila conducted a Mercy Project called, Life After HIV, an HIV & AIDS Mercy Experience. WIth her background in biology, Doree was naturally curious and decided to help out at the event.

Many people living with HIV were present at this event, the majority in the 20's and early 30's. Everyone in the room heard moving stories from people who are infected. Fear, isolation and loss of hope were common themes. So many people who live with this disease don't even tell their families due to the immense stigma attached to it. The stories created awareness, and opened the door to an atmosphere for safe sharing.

At the end of the presentation, the crowd was encouraged to interact with each other. A young man approached Doree. She couldn't help notice he appeared to be roughly the same age as her son. To her surprise he addressed Doree as "Mom" and hugged her tightly, crying on her shoulder. The young man confessed he was terrified at the thought of admitting to his parents he is HIV positive, fearing certain condemnation and rejection. He felt so alone with his suffering and shame. All he wanted was for someone to embrace his grief, his loneliness and his pain. And that night, Doree was there for him, to listen and to love. She imagined what she would want for her own son if he were in the same situation, so she held him close, welcoming his worries and tears. In a very simple, yet powerful way, Doree extended mercy to a man she had never seen before, and may never see again. That act of mercy comforted him, and changed Doree forever.

One of Doree's favorite bible verses is Psalms 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."  As Doree explains it, when she truly delights in the Lord, that becomes a filter for her desires. Mercy, compassion and love are Doree's current desires. Not just to receive them, but to also give them freely.

"We are all broken and that changes how we treat people," Doree shared. When we stop looking at others through eyes of judgment, and begin to see people through the eyes and life of Jesus, the natural response becomes love. 

Doree's story in not uncommon. At Saddleback Church we believe that loving your neighbor as yourself includes caring for the sick, and ministering to those who are infected with HIV & AIDS. We also care for those who are affected, meaning the loved ones of those infected. Our HIV/AIDS support group is a safe place to come and share your pain with others.

If you would like more information about serving people living with HIV through your church, email us at

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