General Synod Highlights
General Synod 26 in Hartford, CT included a day of HIV Testing, organized by UCAN. Trained testers from the Hartford Department of Health provided HIV testing for nearly 30 people at the Hartford Civic Center on Monday June 25, 2007. In the midst of committee meetings, volunteer work and so much more, individuals found the time to take the rapid test and get their results immediately. Among those tested were four members of the Collegium. This Synod HIV Testing Day was held just before National HIV Testing Day (June 27, 2007).
UCAN also hosted a sponsored meal on Monday evening, June 25, 2007 at General Synod 26, which featured keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Kenneth Samuel, and emcee, Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder. Using a healing story in Acts, Rev. Samuel urged those attending the dinner actively engage the full power of God to stop HIV and AIDS and bring healing to all those affected.
New Calculations of Global HIV Statistics
India's National AIDS Control Organization recently released new statistics on the prevalence of HIV throughout India. These new statistics were gathered from house-to-house surveys, which randomly selected people to match certain characteristics of the population: age, income, education where they live (rural or urban), etc. This is a change from previous statistics, which relied heavily on blood samples of select groups in the population, i.e. men who came to sexually transmitted disease clinics, sex workers in brothels, and pregnant women at clinics. The newer numbers indicate a much lower rate of HIV. While reports from the past few years have shown that 0.9% of the Indian population (5 million people) were HIV positive, the newest reports indicate that only 0.36% of the population (2.5 million people) is now infected with HIV. While these numbers are striking, the reality is that if this mode of data collection would have been used in previous years, the statistics would have shown an epidemic in India that has been fairly stable overtime, with marginal decline in 2006. This new mode of data collection has been used recently in 30 countries around the world. In most cases, as in India, the estimated prevalence of the HIV significantly reduced with this new statistical method, so that while it was previously thought that globally there could be as many as 42 million people living with HIV, now estimates top off somewhere closer to 39 million – still quite a staggering number.
Democratic US Presidential Candidates Lift up HIV and AIDS
Eight Democratic Presidential Candidates gathered at Howard University on June 28, 2007 for the first of Tavis Smiley's All-American Presidential Forums. HIV and AIDS was among the topics of the evening's discussion. When NPR's Michele Martin asked about AIDS among Black teens, the leading Democratic contenders took turns offering meaningful responses. "If HIV/AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country," declared Sen. Hillary Clinton. "This is a multiple dimension problem," Clinton concluded. "But if we don't begin to take it seriously and address it the way we did back in the 90s, when it was primarily a gay men's disease, we will never get the services and the public education that we need." Sen. Barack Obama urged African Americans to challenge stigma surrounding the virus, and notably cited homophobia as a roadblock. "We don't talk about it in the schools," Obama said. "Sometimes we don't talk about it in the churches. We don't address this issue as clearly as it needs to be." Obama added that AIDS is but one more symptom of the larger, "interconnected" problems we face. "The African American community is weakened," he declared. "It has a disease to its immune system." Sen. Joe Biden urged African Americans to get tested and to discard unhealthy notions of Black masculinity that discourage both condom use and sexual communication. John Edwards outlined three clear policy priorities for stopping AIDS, which included boosting spending to find a cure, guaranteeing universal treatment for people living with AIDS, and expanding Medicaid to cover HIV. wider Church Ministries Executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy, the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, said he hopes candidates of all parties will continue to engage the public about how we can work together to stop AIDS and what they will do to help.