A Word from Bishop Julius C. Trimble, Chair of the United Methodist Global AIDS Committee
Every year presents the Church with an opportunity for the betterment of humankind.
This begs the question: Could this be the year?
Could this be the year we attain world peace?
Could this be the year we solve homelessness?
Could this be the year we put an end to HIV and AIDS once and for all?
Certainly the United Methodist Global AIDS Committee (UMGAC) hopes so on all counts. This committee of the UMC has been hard at work promoting HIV and AIDS awareness and de-stigmatization and providing resources and education on behalf of our denomination for many years.
Each year brings us closer and closer to an HIV- and AIDS-free world.
Last year, UMGAC hosted an AIDS conference in Rwanda where the virus is still a significant problem. Eighty clergy and spouses attended the conference in the nation’s capital then returned to their respective congregations around the country to be the hands and feet of Christ for those suffering with HIV and AIDS.
Despite hardships with the ongoing Covid pandemic and fracturing in the denomination, UMGAC held strong to its mission and will continue to do so in 2023.
There is still much work to be done.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services:
- Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. have HIV. About 13 percent of them don’t know it and need testing.
- HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on certain populations, particularly racial and ethnic minorities and gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.
- In 2019, an estimated 34,800 new HIV infections occurred in the U.S.
- New HIV infections declined 8% from 37,800 in 2015 to 34,800 in 2019, after a period of general stability.
- In 2020, 30,635 people received an HIV diagnosis in the U.S. and 6 dependent areas—a 17% decrease from the prior year, likely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on HIV prevention, testing, and care-related services.
- HIV diagnoses are not evenly distributed across states and regions. The highest rates of new diagnoses continue to occur in the South.
Globally, the United Nations reports that:
- There were approximately 38.4 million people across the globe with HIV in 2021. Of these, 36.7 million were adults and 1.7 million were children (<15 years old). In addition, 54% were women and girls.
- An estimated 1.5 million individuals worldwide acquired HIV in 2021, marking a 32% decline in new HIV infections since 2010. New HIV infections, or “HIV incidence,” refers to the estimated number of people who newly acquired HIV during a given period such as a year, which is different from the number of people diagnosed with HIV during a year. (Some people may have HIV but not know it.) Of these 1.5 million new HIV infections: 1.3 million were among adults and 160,000 were among children (<15 years old).
- Approximately 85% of people with HIV globally knew their HIV status in 2021. The remaining 15% (about 5.9 million people) did not know they had HIV and still needed access to HIV testing services. HIV testing is an essential gateway to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services.
- As of the end of 2021, 28.7 million people with HIV (75%) were accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally. That means 9.7 million people are still waiting. HIV treatment access is key to the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat. People with HIV who are aware of their status, take ART as prescribed, and get and keep an undetectable viral load can live long and healthy lives and will not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex.
The UMC cares about the struggles of our world just as our Lord cares – from war to poverty to healthcare.
As Methodists we pride ourselves on connectionalism. By this ecclesial structure we have the ability to be at one with our brothers and sisters on all continents.
This connection will serve us well in the coming year.
UMGAC will begin the new year making plans to bring awareness, de-stigmatization, resources and education God’s children across the globe.
Perhaps if we all do our part, this will be the year.