Re: Conference urges religious leaders to step up war on AIDS (October Journal), an event that apparently took place in Colombo. One statement, however, took my breath away, with its marginalization of history. HIV/AIDS has been the dominant factor in my life since the beginning of the epidemic. Your story noted that participants in the conference released the statement, “We acknowledge that we have not done enough in this area and have at times contributed to their (those living with HIV/AIDS) sense of exclusion and stigmatization.” It must have been a fairly young group at the conference, with no memory of the advent of AIDS. As for myself, I was a Canadian living in southern California (San Diego) when first we heard of what was initially called GRID, before HIV was actually identified.
During the earliest years of the AIDS catastrophe, conservative Christian groups fought vociferously in opposition to any public finding for research into HIV and the development of treatment options. The subsequent delay in acquiring anti-retroviral medications denied thousands a fighting chance at extended life. Inevitably it also helped in the disease becoming the global epidemic we see today. Through the years, I have buried 57 remarkable friends. Attitudes and perspectives from the “faith-based” leaders have changed very little from the early days of AIDS.
H. (Bart) Vincelette