“Change can’t happen without a catalyst,” says Richard Adkins, dedicated volunteer with Youth Haven, a program of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area which provides a safe, supportive environment for kids to share their experiences, find comfort and hope, and grow past the stigma of HIV/AIDS. “By coming together as a group, a global force prepared to act together, that is what is needed to fight and overcome AIDS.”
Adkins is one of two area young adults joining an ELCA Youth Delegation participating in the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) in Melbourne, Australia next month, plus in an Interfaith Pre-Conference. From July 20-25, leading scientists, public health experts, policy makers and the HIV-affected community will gather for AIDS 2014 to translate recent momentous scientific advances into actions. The theme, “Stepping up the Pace,” seeks to capture optimism and build on it to ensure that HIV remains on top of the global agenda so that the trajectory of the epidemic is reversed.*
“It is important to have young leadership in the HIV/AIDS fight, because in our community young people are very susceptible to contracting it. Often times it is the young people who are most reluctant to get treated or even tested for HIV,” says Elishua Greenwood, the second Youth Haven volunteer with over 180 hours of service making the journey to Australia for AIDS 2014. “Having youth at the forefront of this fight may slow down the rate of infection because young people listen to young people.”
AIDS 2012 was held in Washington, D.C. A coalition formed called Lutheran Grace** which set up a booth at the event’s “Global Village.” Karin Klingman, member of the coalition, recalled passing out prayer cards to visitors which said things like, “God Loves You!” and “You are always welcome.” “This seemed to have high impact,” Klingman said, and “we received a lot of positive comments about the church and our presence.” Cards will again be collected in advance of the AIDS 2014 event for distribution.
“I believe there are many individuals out there in the world who want to end AIDS, but their voices aren’t being heard. Not because their voices lack passion, but because they aren’t loud enough,” says Adkins. “Others are needed to actually see the change we all desire.”
The passionate perspectives of Adkins and Greenwood will help us all step up the pace in the fight against HIV/AIDS locally and globally.