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Baptist Communities Request More Help With HIV-AIDS

BWAid continues to receive more requests for assistance with HIV-AIDS projects from Baptist communities around the world.

Often when we are confronted with the enormity of the HIV-AIDS crisis around the world, the shear extent of the situation just overpowers us.

Therefore, I want to look at what some Baptist communities around the world are doing, often with the support of Baptist World Aid (BWAid), as they seek to prevent the spread of HIV-AIDS, care for those who are sick, and support remaining family members.

Even within our own culture, there is a resistance to talk about sexual matters. When did your youth group last spend time talking with young people about sex? Talking about True Love Waits to the youth group a few years ago is just not enough.

In other countries, it has been even more difficult. I remember a training conference in Cameroon a few years ago, and even when we had medical practitioners explaining the extent of AIDS in the community, few male pastors wanted to listen, let alone talk. It was the women who raised the issues.

In Uganda—a country renowned for its preventative work—the Baptist Union runs an AIDS education program. With the support of Uganda’s First Lady, the union has conducted seminars with the aim of “using God’s word, cultural and scientific knowledge to fight and reduce the spread of HIV/Aids among all ages in the community.”

AIDS educators and facilitators have been trained in a very practical and biblical way to conduct seminars around the country. Recognizing that the written word never dies, T-shirts have been produced and used as walking advertisements.

On the front it says: AIDS Education; B U of Uganda; AIDS Prevention by God’s word; “God wants all people to be Saved;” I Timothy 2: 3-6.

And on the reverse: Prevention is best cure. Proverb 5:1-15; AIDS is Killer No. 1; AIDS kills slowly; AIDS has no cure. My Decision to stop AIDS; I will have sex only in marriage; I will say no to people demanding sex; I will avoid mixing blood with anyone’s blood; I know condom use is not 100% protective.

Different Baptist communities are responding in different ways. The Baptist Association in Rwanda has built a training center for AIDS patients, where they can live and be trained in small socio-economic projects. Many people, especially mothers and prospective mothers who are HIV positive, receive care, advice and education on avoiding the spread of AIDS.

One African Baptist convention is arranging for pastors to be voluntarily tested for HIV-AIDS, in the hope that this will encourage other people to get tested and highlight the issue of AIDS.

In Bangladesh, the Baptist Sangha is sponsoring an AIDS prevention program. It produced informational publicity to coincide with the December 2002 World AIDS Day.

With these and similar projects already under way, BWAid continues to receive more requests for assistance with HIV-AIDS projects from Baptist communities around the world.

Paul Montacute has been director of Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, since 1990.