On World AIDS Day, people should focus on names and faces rather than just numbers and facts, the Rev Donald Messer told worshippers during a special service at the Upper Room Chapel of The United Methodist Church, Tennessee, USA - writes Deborah White.
Holding up a list of 1,220 names of children affected by HIV/AIDS, Messer declared "these are names, not numbers. To me they are faces, not facts."
The Upper Room worship service was held on 28 November 2007 in anticipation of World AIDS Day on 1 December, an annual international observance that aims to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Messer, a United Methodist theologian and former seminary president, is widely known for his work in combating HIV/AIDS and world hunger. He is the author of Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence-Christian Churches and the Global AIDS Crisis and is executive director of the Center for Church and Global AIDS, an ecumenical faith-based organization.
Citing a recent report showing a decline in HIV/AIDS cases worldwide, Messer said it would be great if fewer people are affected by HIV/AIDS. However, he said, "It's easier to estimate the number of fish in the sea than to determine how many are infected or affected by AIDS. We are still estimating."
The United Nations and World Health Organization reported on 20 November that 33.2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, down from the 2006 estimate of 39.5 million. The report attributes the decrease primarily to revised estimates in India and five African countries
"But it doesn't make any difference to the average American or average church goers because frankly we don't care," Messer said. "The church doesn't give much concern to this issue."
According to a new survey by World Vision, one-third of people in seven wealthy nations say they know little or nothing about the global HIV and AIDS epidemic, and one-fourth believe the problem is "greatly exaggerated."
The survey was released 29 November 2007 by the international humanitarian organization.
The UMC and other churches are calling for a determined renewal of awareness and commitment in the struggle against HIV-AIDS.
With acknowledgments to UMNS