Want another reason to hand $1 to a Street Sense vendor this month? Helping our community overcome the HIV/AIDS epidemic is pledged in “An Open Pastoral Letter to the Residents of Washington, DC from Your Lutheran Neighbors” published in the newspaper’s current edition.*
Last year, a group of ELCA Metro D.C. Synod congregations and others stepped forward with the “God’s People Are Tested” initiative. Pastors and members led by example and learned their own HIV status, plus facilitated testing for community members, too.
“Today, we declare our commitment to tackle the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS and to educate our congregations on the importance of HIV testing,” says the recently-published letter**, taking the message from the initiative to a wider audience, in a community with infection rates rivaling “countries considered to be severely affected by this disease.”
Street Sense, with the mission of providing economic opportunities for people experiencing homelessness, was selected for placement of the letter for a couple of reasons. “It was our desire to make sure that the money we had to spend went to people who needed it,” said the Rev. Richard Graham, bishop, ELCA Metro D.C. Synod. “And we are able to reach out to an underserved community that might not otherwise know Lutheran churches care for them.”
In the letter, signatories commit to:
- Extend our love, support, and compassion to all, especially those living with HIV/AIDS;
- Eliminate the stigma associated with those who are living with HIV/AIDS;
- Generate open dialogue in our congregations in order to make our churches safe places to talk about HIV/AIDS;
- Challenge our members to examine any fears or misperceptions of HIV/AIDS that we harbor; and to
- Encourage our members to be tested for HIV.
Learn more about the ELCA Strategy on HIV/AIDS from the ELCA Web site.
*“God’s People Are Tested” advertisement on page 14, Street Sense [Washington, DC], 15-28 Feb. 2012.
** Read “An Open Letter to the Residents of Washington, DC from Your Lutheran Neighbors” in its entirety.