WASHINGTON (November 27, 2002) -- Prayers of petition, homily reflections, and encouragement of compassionate care for those with HIV/AIDS are ways in which Catholics across the country are being urged to mark World AIDS Day, December 1.
In a letter sent to 17,000 parishes nationwide, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany (NY), the Episcopal Moderator for the National Catholic AIDS Network, encouraged parish leaders to take advantage of World AIDS Day to educate parishioners about HIV/AIDS and those who live with HIV/AIDS.
This year, World AIDS Day coincides with the observance of the first Sunday of Advent. Catholics are encouraged during Masses this weekend to pray for "an end to this terrible epidemic, and for nonjudgmental acceptance of those already affected the pandemic …." Churches are urged to devote their time and resources to organizations that provide compassionate care for people living with AIDS.
The letter was written in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for African American Catholics and Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs in recognition of the heavy toll HIV/AIDS is taking in communities of color.
"While it is true that the virus knows no barriers," writes Bishop Hubbard, "communities of color are particularly at risk for HIV/AIDS. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Leadership Campaign on AIDS, the number of Hispanics and African Americans living with AIDS is rising."
In 2000, HIV was the second leading cause of death among Hispanic men aged 35-44 years, and the fourth leading cause among Hispanic women of the same age. During the same period, HIV was the leading cause of death among black men aged 35-44 years, and the third leading cause among black women of the same age. Of the estimated 40,000 new HIV infections that occur in the United States each year, 64 percent occur among African Americans.
"Both the USCCB Committees on Hispanic Affairs and African American Catholics have made serious efforts to develop theologically and culturally appropriate resources that show compassion to people living with HIV/AIDS," says Beverly Carroll, Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat for African American Catholics. "Stigma and discrimination are daily facts of life and are obstacles to addressing the real issues of the disease," says Ronaldo Cruz, Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs.
Information resources are available on the Web site of the National Catholic AIDS Network (www.ncan.org). Beverly Carroll is available at 202-541-3177 (email@example.com). Ronaldo Cruz is available at 202-541-3150 (firstname.lastname@example.org).