(NCCP Statement on the Commemoration of the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial 2019)
Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And just then, there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured in the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.” Luke 13:10-14
People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) and people who have died of AIDS-related diseases were like this – bowed, unable to rise not because their body cannot fight the disease, but because of the many layers of shame, stigma, denial, discrimination, inaction and misaction. The status of people living with HIV seems to sentence them with death, but the reality is, it is our fear that causes their “infirmity” and death.
According to the HIV and AIDS ART Registry of the Philippines there were 22 reported deaths due to any cause among people living with HIV in the month of January 2019 . One death is one too many, knowing the fact that we could have avoided these deaths if we only cared enough and extended our solidarity with them. This should not be the case. We must surface and honor their silent suffering.
This year marks the 36th annual International AIDS Candlelight Memorial bearing the theme: “Intensifying the fight for Health and Rights”. We are grateful and ever hopeful as policies advancing the cause are enacted through the signing of the amended HIV Policy Act. Moreover, we rejoice in the development of the Implementing Rules and Regulations, and the signing of the Universal Health Care law. We thank the PLHIVs, advocates, activists, health professionals and those who have authored these bills for their insistent and unwavering commitment. Their lives have fueled our advocacy and solidarity work.
We commemorate and remember each and every person we have lost in this fight. We herald the hope that springs eternal as we draw endless inspiration from PLWHAs. We continue to fight alongside them. We commit our lives not just to ending HIV and AIDS, but more importantly, healing the social ills that comes with it. Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS must be stopped.
Just as Jesus was subjected to a narrow understanding of the scripture in our text, we will be met with self-righteous resistance from those whose theologies are limited by their prejudices and the fear of things that they do not understand. There will be those who will point out the importance of the Sabbath over healing. Let us respond like Jesus who recognized that the woman, like the PLWHA community, has already waited for far too long—for healing, acceptance, and wholeness.
As a community of faith, let us unite our voices and take action in education and awareness. Let us increase our efforts in HIV testing in our churches and communities. Let us engage ourselves in different discussions and dialogues on health issues related to HIV and sexual and reproductive health rights. Let us uphold the rights of the PLHIVs as we intensify the fight for health and rights. Let us always choose to love and to heal.
JUSTICE RAOUL V. VICTORINO, Ret.
BISHOP RODOLFO A. JUAN
REV. DR. SHARON ROSE JOY RUIZ-DUREMDES
MS. LISSA BELLE R. BROWN
MS. MINNIE ANNE MATA- CALUB
Acting General Secretary
MR. REYNALDO M. NATIVIDAD
May 17, 2019
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