HIV/AIDS Conference: 'Being Sick is Not a Sin'

The first Purpose Driven international conference on the Church and AIDS continued Tuesday, emphasizing again the message that ''being sick is not a sin'' and integrating the statement into the introduction session of the second day.

LAKE FOREST, Calif. – The first Purpose Driven international conference on the Church and AIDS on Tuesday, emphasizes the message that “being sick is not a sin” and integrating the statement into the introduction session of the second day.

“Definitely sin hurts and there are consequences, but it is not a sin to be sick,” proclaimed Saddleback co-minister Kay Warren, calling on the 1,690 attendants from around the world to boldly repeat the statement. “We have to keep saying this: ‘It is not a sin to be sick.’”

At the three-day “Desperate Voices” conference at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., Warren along with other Christian leaders at the event have joined efforts in calling upon pastors, church leaders, and Christians to change their personal viewpoint and those of their congregations in viewing HIV/AIDS as a stigma.

“Stigma just adds insult to injury,” Warren noted, during Tuesday's "Mobilizing Your C.H.U.R.C.H" session. “Someone HIV-positive is sick and the stigma ostracizes and isolates the person.”

Using her own personal testimony from her disturbing trip to Mozambique, Warren spoke about a woman nearly overtaken by AIDS, who had “unrelenting diarrhea, skeletal, dying, and living under a tree with one little cloth wrapped around her.” She also mentioned that the victim had no family, neighbors or home to comfort her.

“The fact is that millions has gone through this ordeal and too many have gone through it all by themselves,” said Bishop Charles Blake, of the 24,000-membered West Angeles Church of God in Christ, earlier in the morning. “The Lord would not have wanted anybody to deal with AIDS alone.”

“The worst experience is a little better when someone is loving you, praying for you, encouraging you.”

Moreover, Warren spoke about a HIV-positive man living in Santa Ana, a city ten miles from Lake Forest, who was “graciously” allowed to live in the backyard and prohibited from going inside his former home. The man, she added, was showered by his wife by hosing him down using the strongest water pressure to hopefully remove the “dirt, soil, and oil” that had accumulated on him in the backyard.

“No one should have to live in someone’s backyard because of stigma!” exclaimed Warren. “That is the power of stigma of HIV.”

Kathi Winter, someone who had lived with HIV for 12 years, in a video said, “I think people do not know how the disease is spread and transmitted and this causes stigma.”

“Disclosure is difficult when you have something at stake,” Winter continued. “Wanting them to like me and finding a balance between ‘Will they like me?’ ‘… accept me?’ or ‘… be afraid?’ It is hard when people are afraid of me.”

Warren believes that the church is in a unique position to reduce or remove the stigma from the disease that has been nicknamed “Skinny disease,” “the cough,” and the “wasting disease.”

“The church is in the best position to reduce and remove stigma. The government cannot remove the stigma,” she said.

In conclusion, the AIDS advocator strongly declared: “Jesus never asked anyone he healed ‘How did you get sick?’ Our compassion must be the same no matter how someone gets sick.”

“Do you want to be a Pharisee or Jesus? He took you in. He loved you, welcomed you. How dare we do any less for future human being!”