As a person of faith living with HIV for more than 30 years, I appreciate John Callaghan’s thorough and passionate article, “From the Frontlines of the War on HIV & AIDS.” It is a tremendous recording of current issues and facts about the epidemic. It is also a searing personal testimony about the realities of living with HIV, and the failure of people of faith and faith institutions to keep focus on the needs of millions impacted by HIV, and the challenges the epidemic poses to questions of social justice, health inequities and power inequalities. He makes clear that we have the biomedical tools today to end the HIV epidemic. But, do we have the political will to do so?
For people of faith, our will to address any social justice challenge, including HIV, is rooted in our response to the Gospel’s call that underlies Callaghan’s article: “This is my commandment, that you love one other as I have loved you.” Jesus’ fearless acts of love—from his one-to-one encounters helping those in need to his public confrontations with the unjust and powerful—reflect the very response to HIV that is needed from his followers today. The will to act boldly and out of love, combined with a roadmap for ending the epidemic, will be powerful.
My organization, AIDS United, released just such a roadmap on World AIDS Day: “Ending the HIV Epidemic in the United States: A Roadmap for Federal Action.” It offers bold strategies for ending the epidemic by 2030 and addresses every policy issue and social challenge Callaghan raises. Already more than 250 organizations have signed on to it, and more than 50 organizations were engaged in writing it. It has been distributed to senior Trump administration officials responsible for the national response to HIV and to members of Congress as well. No Catholic institution has yet to join. Your parish, your diocese and your voice should be included in the growing advocacy effort for finally ending the epidemic. The Gospel not only permits this, it demands it.
Jesse Milan, Jr., JD
President & CEO, AIDS United