Today is World AIDS Day. I am not sure how many people know that. It is a topic that is not really talked about anymore. Even the news barely mentions it. You would hope it is because HIV/AIDS has been cured or that very few people have it. Surely it is because no one dies from it anymore, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In the last 3 months, I have lost two friends to AIDS. Both were women, one in her thirties and one in her forties. One left behind a six year old son who is now orphaned by AIDS. His father died from it 5 years ago. These precious women had very different stories, but both had tremendous faith and courage. I have many friends living with HIV and they are truly some of the bravest people I know.

You would think the number of cases of those living with HIV has gone down since we don’t hear about it, but the number has not gone down. It continues to rise. Worldwide, there are 40 million people living with the disease. There are about 1.2 million cases in the United States. In a study done last year, Jacksonville was shown to be number three in the top 25 cities of HIV cases in the United States. Jacksonville has more cases than New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago. And these are just the known cases. There are a lot of people walking around without knowing their status.

The above information might disturb you some, but to me, what is more alarming is how the stigma has remained after all these years. People still remain very secretive about their HIV status, living in fear of who may or may not find out. People are still rejected by churches, friends and family because they are HIV positive. People would rather say they have cancer than to admit they are HIV positive.

In the last six years, I have learned so much about this disease. I have been blessed to meet modern day heroes fighting this battle, spreading awareness and more importantly the love of Jesus. A lot of them do this all while fighting the disease themselves. They know firsthand the struggles that come with the medications, the stigma and the fear. I really do feel blessed to be a part of this ministry. It can definitely be discouraging, though. I have felt much disappointment, confusion and even anger. More importantly, though, I am learning to trust. I have seen God move in amazing and beautiful ways. He is teaching me that sometimes the harder it is, the more important it is. If I invite 100 to come and only one shows up, that one matters!! I am learning to never give up. John Gardener said “We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” This is how I see AIDS. It is an opportunity from God for the church to be the church, to show up when no one else will. It is quite beautiful if you think about it. As you pray, please keep the AIDS community locally and worldwide in mind. Pray for those living with it, for those searching for a cure for it and for those in ministries here and around the world. Thanks for reading this. Thanks for being a part of this ministry in one way or another. I love you all so much.

PS- Don’t forget to wear red today. Spread the word.
Britney Fluharty