Photo Credit: Bishopthorpe Palace
The 30th annual World Aids Day will be marked tomorrow (Saturday) and Anglicans are joining with Christians from other Churches to promote HIV testing. Amongst them is Margaret Sentamu, the wife of the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who underwent a 20-minute finger prick test this week, to demonstrate how simple the test is. Significant progress is being made in the fight against HIV, but in 2017 some two million people were newly infected. Estimates suggest that a quarter of people living with HIV – around 9.4 million people – do not know their status and are not receiving treatment.
This year, the Anglican Communion Office is working alongside the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance to mark the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day by encouraging everyone to get tested and know their HIV status. Mrs Sentamu underwent her text in a community facility organised by National Health Service (NHS) staff from York’s sexual health services and the charity Yorkshire MESMAC. The simple finger prick test can provide results in about 20 minutes.
“It’s important to raise awareness not just for one day, but all year round of the importance of getting tested”, Mrs Sentamu said “There have been fantastic advances in medication which means people can now live a completely normal life, particularly when they get an early diagnosis.”
Like her husband, Mrs Sentamu hails from Uganda. Both she and Archbishop John have lost family and friends to Aids. “It has taken a while for the message to get through to people that HIV is spread by having unprotected sex”, she said. “Because of this, African women were, and are, particularly vulnerable to being infected with the virus.
“Understandably people may be nervous about taking a test but you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Late diagnosis can be devastating, so be brave and go forward - do not fear the test.”
The Anglican Communion’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Jack Palmer-White said: “Whilst there has been significant progress made to increase the number of people who know their HIV status, more needs to be done to ensure that this is a reality for everyone.
“Churches can play a vital role in helping people understand why knowing their status is so important, and church leaders can be a positive example to their congregations by being tested themselves.”
He said that the “huge numbers of people” who do not know their status “are being denied the opportunity to live their lives to the full because of untested or untreated HIV infections.
“Now is the time to end HIV/Aids”, he said. “Together, we can achieve this goal. But it requires us to work together to bring hope to the millions who do not know they are living with HIV and to support the millions more who need access to treatment.”
To help raise the profile of this campaign, prayers have been commissioned from activists within the church who are working within their communities to prevent, treat and support people living with HIV.
These prayers will be used as part of the World Council of Church’s World Aids Day Prayer Service
The full set of prayers can be found on the WCC website. We publish one of them here:
World Aids Day Prayer
written by Ann Mwanik
from the Anglican Church of Kenya, an Anglican youth delegate at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in London, England, earlier this year.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We are here yet again this year remembering our sisters, brothers, relatives, friends and everyone else who lives with HIV/Aids.
We are praying for your divine mercy upon them for the resources required for survival.
May your grace be upon us all so that we can be mindful of the affected and the infected,
particularly the children and adolescents who live with it or were orphaned along the way.
Help us to continue reaching out to more people with the right information and then let us have the zeal to know our status.
May you help our governments, pharmacies and health centres to be able to take the pandemic of HIV more seriously.
May you bring peace to all those affected or infected and may you give them a long healthy life.
May you help us all to create awareness and accept those infected and may you give us solutions to be able to curb this condition.
May you guide us to be safe, do the right thing and always walk in righteousness.
We are still hopeful that your mighty hand will locate the sick and bring them comfort for you are able.
We pray this trusting and believing in your mighty name.