International AIDS Conference

This summer, the International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington, DC, July 22-27. This is a pretty big deal, as President Obama just lifted the travel ban that has been in place for the past 22 years that has barred those who are HIV+ from traveling into the States, allowing the conference to be held in the U.S. for the first time since the travel ban was put in place. Upwards of 30,000 are expected to descend on D.C. for the conference, with people from every sector of society present to discuss every aspect of the AIDS crisis.

Sadly, for the most part, the American Church has been noticeably absent from this conference for most of its existence - and from the broader discussion around AIDS in general (there are definitely exceptions, but this generally has not been an issue of focus in many churches around the U.S.). The American Church has been mostly silent from the conversation, and more importantly from loving our HIV+ neighbors, for far too long, and the fact that the conference is in our home this summer is too big of an open door to ignore. DC has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate of any city in the US - the stark reality of that statistic alone should move the Church to action, let alone the stereotypes, stigmas, past evils, and other injustices that come along with the mention of HIV/AIDS. The Church has such an opportunity to enter the conversation and take action to prevent, treat, and love our neighbors in ways many other segments of our society still aren't.

For the Church in DC, especially, this summer presents such an exciting opportunity to bring Christ into the conversation, to be present in a way the faith community has not always been in the past. And hopefully, out of acting together this summer, the Church in DC can produce a long-term, unified movement in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. There is already a group within the DC faith community meeting to discuss and plan how we can be present at the conference this summer, and as the conference approaches I’m sure I’ll be posting more about it, but if you would like to join in these discussions now or just find out more about the conference and what some churches are planning to do, send me an email! I’m sure there are already several churches in DC who have been working to combat HIV/AIDS and minister to those affected by it, so if you are already working in this area I would love to hear from you as well about the work you are already doing, ways other churches can partner with you, and if you are already planning on doing something this summer.

Also, if you'd just like to talk more about what it could look like to form an official partnership among churches in DC to take unified action in Christ’s name on issues like HIV/AIDS, please send me an email!

A few more quick details about the AIDS Conference: Early registration for the conference closes Feb. 23. It is pretty pricey so I don't think there will be many churches inside the conference, but I know Saddleback Church from CA, and maybe some others, are rasing money to send some of their members to the conference. As far as I know, though, churches in DC are just planning to be present around the conference area where there will be a lot of tables and groups present. But if you would like to attend the conference, you can view more information here.(There is a significant discount if you are under age 26). There are also a few opportunities to work at the conference, and the volunteer application will open on April 1.

Blythe Scott
Leadership Resident and Outreach Director,The District Church