Thousands of events around the world will mark World AIDS Day on Saturday, Dec.1, including many Christian-sponsored events as believers increasingly become engaged against the global crisis.
The theme this year for World AIDS Day is "Keep the Promise Take the Lead."
"This is not the time for complacency nor apathy," said the South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, according to the World AIDS Campaign. "It is the time for compassionate leadership."
At "Purpose Driven" Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., Christians will mark World AIDS Day with the church's first-ever AIDS Youth Summit featuring First Daughter Jenna Bush.
The Youth Summit follows the Saddleback-hosted "Global Summit on AIDS and the Church," where government, non-governmental organizations, and religious bodies met to learn from one another and strategize on how to tackle the epidemic.
Video messages from rock star Bono, pop artist Jordan Pruitt and the cast of TV show "One Tree Hill" will accompany a personal appearance by Jenna Bush. The summit will be simulcast to more than 200 churches nationwide.
"The Bible commands the church to care for widows and orphans," said Rick Warren at the Nov. 28-30 summit. "With 143 million orphans in the world, I'd say that we have plenty of opportunity to make good on that mandate and demonstrate the love of Christ to children who have nothing to lose but hope. And we should never discount the power of hope."
Overall, an estimated 33.2 million people in the world – one in every 200 – are living with HIV, and daily 6,800 people are infected with HIV and 5,70 people die of AIDS-related illness, according to the UNAIDS and WHO 2007 AIDS Epidemic Update. Furthermore, AIDS is still considered the leading cause of death in Sub-Saharan Africa.
More than 12 million children in Africa alone have been orphaned by AIDS.
To raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, mission groups e3 Partners (developer of the popular EvangeCube) and SIM unveiled the HIV/AIDS cube – a new tool for the global fight against the AIDS pandemic – at the Saddleback AIDS and Church summit. The cube explains how HIV is contracted, spread, as well as how to care for those living with the disease.
The developers reported positive responses from users of the cube and hope to put it into the hands of everyone involved in AIDS education.
"The demand [for cubes] is well beyond what we ever expected," said Bob Blees, of SIM International, in a statement. "20,000 cubes have already been shipped, 10,000 of which are on their way to Africa. Another 20,000 have been manufactured and will be shipping soon."
In addition, Christian humanitarian and development groups such as World Vision, Church World Service, Compassion, and Food for the Hungry have also taken a leading role in raising awareness, providing treatment, and advocating prevention methods.
"When you look at HIV/AIDS and you look at the devastation that it brings, it creates very real, very tragic brokenness," said Ben Homan of Food for the Hungry, according to Mission Network News. "In that, there is an opportunity for hope to shine, even in the midst of darkness."
Many of the Christian humanitarian groups are utilizing established networks of local churches to care for AIDS-affected communities and offering both physical and spiritual care.
"I believe now is the time for the church in the United States to stand up and say 'We will be counted, and we will make this a priority,'" said Homan. "We will pray, we will give, we will advocate, we will be educated, and we will make a difference."
On the Web: www.fh.org/aids/what/