Fifteen-year-old Isaiah Gakuyo from rural Kenya may become the Ryan White of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Ryan White was a hemophiliac exposed to HIV in the 1980s before donated blood was fully screened. The Kokomo, Indiana, teenager famously testified before Congress about his battle against discrimination. "Even at church, people would not shake my hand," he said two years before his death in 1990.
Gakuyo's tragic life story of losing both parents to AIDS, being infected with HIV, and living in deep poverty is only exceeded by the senseless act of his destitute uncle and guardian this past spring. The uncle killed his nephew in a fit of frustration and rage.
"We are all angry at the uncle, but how many of us tried to help him when he was taking care of the boy?" asked Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan activist, according to the Los Angeles Times. Decimated by HIV, Africans are desperate for family-friendly care. Weeks after the killing, Kenyans demonstrated with posters that read, "I Am Positive. Don't Hate Me."
Since the first HIV/AIDS case in 1981, we all have come a long way. But HIV has moved faster. Every year for the past 25 years, the death toll has been higher and the case load greater than the year before.
Stop the Trash Talk
Millions of people at risk of HIV infection fall through the best government safety nets, and that's where Christians acting locally and thinking globally have a leadership role to play. This relational pandemic calls for a morally attentive, relational response. Christians should incarnate the many comparative advantages churches have over secular agencies.
Last year, nine influential Christians worked with the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies to map out how congregations may contribute to the HIV/AIDS fight. ...1
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