by David Evans
What is our response as Christians to AIDS? Should we put our efforts into education and prevention, or should we try to begin AIDS care programmes? How do these two activities fit together?
An important part of Christian care is the idea of change – at every level of life. We want to see the lives of people and their communities changed in practical as well as spiritual ways. The care we give as Christians must include pastoral care and support which goes beyond helping people feel more positive. Our care should gently challenge their basic view of life. This kind of care will affect not just those who are suffering and dying, but also their families and communities.
The results of AIDS care programmes could include…
- united families
- people dying with dignity, knowing their children will be properly cared for
- people dying with faith in God and at peace with him
- less fear of rejection by family, church and friends
- care for orphans
- less pressure for young people to sell their bodies to buy food or pay school fees.
Many other helpful things could be added to this list. But we still need to aim for the change to affect the whole community. Encourage everyone – including the person with HIV infection or AIDS – in the process of care. Opportunities to talk about the spread of AIDS will develop because of your care activities. Attitudes will be challenged, denial of the problem will be reduced. People will start to see that their actions and lifestyles affect the people they live with and their whole community.
Instead of seeing ‘care’ as an alternative to ‘prevention’ activities, the two become one as the results of care lead into action to prevent the spread of AIDS.
Watch-words for AIDS programmes…
- Understand people’s attitudes to AIDS, both in the church and outside.
- Find out what else is happening locally – don’t duplicate other work.
- Find out how common AIDS is in your area.
- Develop openness and trust within your team.
- Find out where training is available in your area.
- Plan your programme, setting goals and objectives.
- Commit yourselves to good evaluation and monitoring.
- How can the results of your care become opportunities for talking about AIDS prevention?
Change in behaviour
Abstinence and faithfulness are two types of behaviour which prevent the spread of AIDS. We would like to hear about examples of projects which are experiencing success through encouraging such behaviour. How do you measure success in your work?
We would also like to gather information about how to encourage community discussion about sexual issues and lifestyle.
David Evans is a consultant on AIDS at Tearfund. Please write to him there if you have relevant information.