World AIDS Day - “see the person, not the virus” says Moderator

The Moderator of the General Assembly has urged people to “walk alongside and support” people living with HIV and AIDS.

Right Rev Dr Derek Browning said he was a strong supporter of the idea of “seeing the person, not the virus” as he prepares to mark World AIDS Day on Friday.

Right Rev Dr Derek Browning
“See the person, not the virus.” Right Rev Dr Derek Browning

The annual event is dedicated to raising awareness of the pandemic and remembering the 36 million people who have died.

Supporting the combat of HIV and AIDS is a priority for the Church of Scotland and congregation members have raised nearly £1.5 million to date.

The Kirk’s HIV Programme supports more than 20 projects in 16 countries around the world, including Scotland, and works hard to tackle stigma and discrimination.

Understanding

Dr Browning, who is wearing the red ribbon as a symbol of support, said: “World AIDS day reminds us that the issue of HIV and AIDS has not gone away.

“The stigma as well as the physical realities of this epidemic continue.

“Over the years the world has changed its attitude not only to the epidemic, but to the people who live with the virus.

“Here are human beings who need support, help, understanding and kindliness.”

Dr Browning said World AIDS Day encourages everyone affected by HIV and AIDS to embrace issues that “challenge us and the society within which we live”.

“Do we see the virus, or do we see the person living positively with the virus?,” he added.

“My hope is that as medical science moves towards a cure, that in this waiting time between diagnosis and whatever the future may hold, we sit beside those, and walk with, people in this country and across the world, who are living with HIV and AIDS.

“See the person, not the virus.”

Stigma

More than 35 million people are living with HIV including over 100,000 in the UK.

For those with the virus, ignorance and discrimination can still limit opportunities, preventing them from living full and happy lives.

World AIDS Day this year is reminding people to join the fight to end the negative impact of HIV, to end isolation, stigma and HIV transmission.

The theme focuses on the right to accessible and available quality health care.

Campaigning over the years has resulted in the significant rise in access to antiretroviral therapy from just over 500,000 in 2000 to over 20 million in 2017.

Opportunities

The Kirk’s HIV Programme support projects by helping to provide nutritional support, home based care, palliative care, community based orphan care, awareness raising, education programmes, support of those infected and affected by HIV.

One of the projects is the Church of North India’s Arunima Hospice in Kolkata.

It has been a pioneer in offering hospice care and support to people living with HIV in West Bengal.

In recent years it has collaborated with the TB prevention programme and with an advocacy programme for female sex workers.

The Hospice aims to build an inclusive community which reduces and eradicates stigma and discrimination, create job opportunities through skills training and self-help groups, as well as campaigning for their own socio-economic rights.

Awareness

In Scotland, the Church’s HIV Programme supports aspects of the work of Edinburgh-based Positive Help and Waverley Care, including its Voice of Hope Choir which performed at the Scottish Parliament last night.

Also based in Edinburgh, Waverley Care’s aim is to reach out to the wider community in Scotland to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS issues in an informal, creative and interactive manner.

The Kirk’s HIV Programme has its own Heart and Soul Swing Band which raises funds through their concerts.