Know your HIV status: Message for 2018 World Aids Day

1 December 2018

Mrs Margaret Sentamu, wife of the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, undergoes an HIV test in York. Photo Credit: Bishopthorpe Palace

‘Live life positively – know your HIV status’ is the message for the 30th World AIDS Day – today, 1 December 2018. The United Nations is calling for global efforts to increase access and uptake of HIV testing. While very significant progress has been made in tackling HIV, still in 2017 an estimated 2 million people were newly infected. 25% of those living with HIV – 9.4 million people around the world – are unaware of their HIV-positive status. UNAIDS is making a global call for increased access and uptake of HIV testing so that those living with HIV can get tested and treated to live lives to the full and protect others from the virus and those who test HIV-negative can continue to protect themselves.

Throughout the Anglican Communion, church leaders have advocated powerfully over the years for access to HIV testing and treatment. In many cases, they have led the way by being tested in public to encourage others. This year, Margaret Sentamu, wife of the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, took the finger prick test to show how simple it is to be tested – with results in just 20 minutes.

“It’s important to raise awareness not just for one day, but all year round of the importance of getting tested”, Mrs Sentamu said “There have been fantastic advances in medication which means people can now live a completely normal life, particularly when they get an early diagnosis.”

Like her husband, Mrs Sentamu comes from Uganda. Both she and Archbishop Sentamu have lost family and friends to Aids. “It has taken a while for the message to get through to people that HIV is spread by having unprotected sex”, she said. “Because of this, African women were, and are, particularly vulnerable to being infected with the virus.”

“Understandably people may be nervous about taking a test but you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Late diagnosis can be devastating, so be brave and go forward – do not fear the test.”

The Anglican Communion’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Jack Palmer-White said: “Whilst there has been significant progress made to increase the number of people who know their HIV status, more needs to be done to ensure that this is a reality for everyone.”

“Churches can play a vital role in helping people understand why knowing their status is so important, and church leaders can be a positive example to their congregations by being tested themselves.”

He said that the “huge numbers of people” who do not know their status “are being denied the opportunity to live their lives to the full because of untested or untreated HIV infections.

Revd Rachel Carnegie, Anglican Alliance Executive Director said: “Across the world people are living full and happy lives while taking HIV treatment. We need to work tirelessly to ensure that everyone – and especially those most at risk – is aware of the need for testing and that opportunities for HIV testing and treatment are widely and easily available. Working together with our churches, faith groups, governments and civil society, we can promote awareness, overcome myths and fears and promote testing and treatment for all – so that all may live life in all its fullness.”

Rachel added: “While we give thanks for all that has been achieved, we must continue to bring love and support to those affected over the years, losing loved ones and to those of us living with HIV.”

The Anglican Communion has worked with the World Council of Churches to help raise awareness of this campaign. Prayers have been commissioned from activists within churches who work to promote awareness of testing and treatment and support those living with or affected by HIV.

These prayers will be used as part of the World Council of Church’s World Aids Day Prayer Service.

The full set of prayers can be found on the WCC website.  Here is a prayer by Ann Mwanik, from the Anglican Church of Kenya. She was an Anglican youth delegate at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in London, England, earlier this year.

World Aids Day Prayer 

Dear Heavenly Father,

We are here yet again this year remembering our sisters, brothers, relatives, friends and everyone else who lives with HIV/Aids. We are praying for your divine mercy upon them for the resources required for survival. May your grace be upon us all so that we can be mindful of the affected and the infected, particularly the children and adolescents who live with it or were orphaned along the way. Help us to continue reaching out to more people with the right information and then let us have the zeal to know our status.

May you help our governments, pharmacies and health centres to be able to take the pandemic of HIV more seriously. May you bring peace to all those affected or infected and may you give them a long healthy life.

May you help us all to create awareness and accept those infected and may you give us solutions to be able to curb this condition.

May you guide us to be safe, do the right thing and always walk in righteousness. We are still hopeful that your mighty hand will locate the sick and bring them comfort for you are able.

We pray this trusting and believing in your mighty name. Amen!

The Bishop of the Diocese of Upper Shire in Malawi, the Rt Revd Brighton Vita Malasa, reminded us in his prayer to care for those made vulnerable by HIV:

Remind us all to share with them what you provide to us that in sharing we may demonstrate your unfailing love. Raise in us abundant love to one another and hope in all the situations we are in and not lose our faith in you God, the almighty. We make this prayer trusting in your Son Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God world without end. Amen.

UNAIDS have produced materials providing more information on HIV testing. One gives an overview of the challenges and ways forward, Live life positively—know your HIV status, and the other is a guide to HIV testing, What you need to know about HIV testing.