When many little people in many little places do many little things, then the whole world changes, but sometimes not fast enough for me. Michael Franti
We can do small things with great love. Mother Theresa
I have a gift for you, one I hope you’ll gratefully receive. I want to give you a sleepless night or two. I’d also like to ruin your appetite and rattle your conscience. But mostly I want to give you the gift of a broken heart for the plight of the AIDS pandemic.
It’s World AIDS Day this Saturday. I’m glad for the day because AIDS has gone off the radar of concern for most people. Truth is we should have these every week because, as U2’s Bono notes, the AIDS pandemic is “the moral issue of our times.”
The number of people living with and dying from HIV/AIDS is both staggering and scandalous:
- At the end of 2010, 34 million people were living with HIV worldwide.
- Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 68% of all people living with HIV – 22.9 million adults and children are living with HIV – but only 12% of the global population.
- There were 1.8 million AIDS-related deaths worldwide in 2010, 1.2 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
- For every person starting antiretroviral treatment in 2010, there were two new HIV infections.
- Of the 2.7 million new HIV infections worldwide in 2010, 70% of them (1.9 million) were in sub-Saharan Africa.
- In the last 30 years, more than 30 million people have died of AIDS.
You likely skimmed past those statistics too quickly. They’re almost too big to comprehend but read them again slowly and let their reality wreck your heart for a moment.
This merciless disease causes most of its cruel suffering among the poor and vulnerable, those without access to the needed resources, support, and treatment. AIDS not only snuffs out human life but, as former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell notes, it “tears the fabric of societies and undermines governments. AIDS can destroy countries and destabilize entire regions.” This is not political hyperbole but the mean reality facing an entire continent.
Yet perhaps the most troubling aspect about the AIDS pandemic is how far off our radar it is in North America. It’s an ocean away on a continent few of us understand. U2 frontman Bono predicts: “This generation will be remembered for three things: the Internet, the war on terror, and how we let an entire continent go up in flames while we stood around with watering cans. Or not.”
Or not! Those two words of defiant hope fly in the face of the hopelessness that the AIDS crisis generates. Conquering the disease looks so impossibly daunting. But followers of Christ are part of a conspiracy of hope, called to “proclaim the Lord’s favor,” knowing that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Christ (Matt. 25:40).
Can we get this back on our agenda of concern and back in our hearts? Can all of us little people start doing little things with great love? Start by making a little more room in your your heart for the issue, by getting a little more informed, by praying a little prayer a little more often, by realizing and honouring the courageous efforts so many across Africa are doing already to rise up to the challenges of AIDS.
And how about a little partnering and acting in solidarity with those suffering from AIDS? Across sub-Saharan Africa, communities are rising up with extraordinary acts of courage, ingenuity, determination and strength to meet the challenges of the AIDS pandemic. How about you and I match that courage and ingenuity by inviting our communities (your circle of friends, your church, your school) to a little dare.
I love this idea of the Dare Campaign (check out the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Dare Campaign here). It’s the challenge to get AIDS back on the agenda, to spark a renewed concern by taking on a dare to raise funds for organizations working hard to turn the tide against AIDS. What sort of courageous, ingenious, determined dares can we dream and do as a little act of solidarity with the many who face the challenge of their lives? (need some inspiration, check out these 50 ideas).
Many little dares by many little people in many little communities, all with great love – imagine what might happen.
And here’s the brilliant Eva Cassidy to help you get on board.