My dear Brothers of the Order,
May the Lord give you peace!
Each year since 1988, the world community is invited to pause for a moment to reflect on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, increase awareness and knowledge, speak out against all forms of stigma, commit to a deeper engagement, and call for an increased response to move towards ending the pandemic as a public health threat. These goals can be achieved by facilitating access to early and affordable diagnosis and treatment for all people who need it, no matter what their social or economic status might be.
There currently are 38 million brothers and sisters living with the HIV virus, with more than 1.7 million new infections in 2018. More than 32 million others have died as a result of complications of AIDS since the HIV virus was first identified. Thanks to increased awareness of the virus and expanded access to life-saving medications, new HIV infections have declined by approximately 37% in the period 2010-2018. HIV-related deaths fell by 45%. More than 13.6 million lives have been saved due to access to improved Antiretroviral drug therapies (cf. UN AIDS Fact Sheet, August 2019) with nearly 23 million people benefitting from these treatments in 2018.
Despite these encouraging developments, there remain regions of the world where HIV infections are increasing. This is especially true in Eastern Europe, central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. In Pakistan, it has been reported that nearly 1,900 children were found to be infected with the HIV virus in a city of 200,000 due to dangerous medical practices. This makes it imminently clear that there can be no room for complacency when dealing with the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The theme of 2019 World AIDS Day is: ““Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community”. International publicity about this observance cites many types of communities engaged in the response to HIV/AIDS, including those people who themselves are living with, or vulnerable to, HIV infection. Very little mention is made, however, of the courageous commitment and action by communities of faith – Catholic, Ecumenical, Interfaith – in preventing the further spread of HIV, making available local diagnosis and treatment programs, and developing resources to assure integral development and accompaniment for those living with HIV and for their loved ones.
Following the example of St. Francis of Assisi, we unite with people of faith and of good will everywhere in the pursuit of ending the HIV pandemic. We pledge to fight against all forms of stigma and to encourage our governments and the international community to maintain their political and financial commitments to address the needs of all living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, and to help end this pandemic. We encourage the scientific community in its efforts to understand HIV and to create new ways to thwart its advance. We urge pharmaceutical companies to continue to make affordable access to life saving medicines available to all, especially the poor and excluded.
We unite our prayer with all who are living with HIV, most especially our own brothers: may they experience mercy, acceptance, and love, qualities that St. Francis demanded of his Friars. And may God strengthen the resolve of governments everywhere to do all they can to promote human dignity, provide funding for medical advances, encourage behavior change, and promote morally grounded values to help in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Franciscan Prayer for 2019 World AIDS Day:
God, you who are the source of all blessings, hear the cry of our brothers and sisters who are living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. In your infinite goodness, transform human hearts so that all people everywhere might treat with dignity, respect, and loving care those living with HIV. May our communities become places of welcome, compassion, love, and hope for all.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.
December 1, 2019
Fr. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant
Prot. MG 162/19