World AIDS Day highlights the need for action in the fight against complacency and ignorance

With more than 40 million people living with HIV and AIDS across the world, World AIDS Day is a serious reminder of all that still needs to be done to prevent the spread of this disease and improve the quality of life for those living under its shadow. The Methodist Church is urging people to support AIDS projects in any way they can and to continue to pray for a cure, for those infected and for all those affected, socially, economically or physically by HIV and AIDS.

The Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) works with partner organisations to combat the spread of AIDS and support those living with this disease throughout developing countries. Although larger national and international structures are needed, research has shown that grass-roots community projects such as these provide the most effective way to raise awareness of the issues involved. The Community Youth Mobilisation (CYM) project in Zambia offers HIV testing and counselling, as well as community drama and workshops to challenge attitudes and raise awareness. Speaking about CYM in her home town, Precious Chanda, aged 16, who lost her first child to AIDS, says 'I am very happy that CYM has come to discuss with us real issues without fear and I believe with such a project my children will live longer.'

Africa is well known for its struggles with this disease and the Methodist Church in Southern Africa run a medicinal supply scheme called the 'Love Box' project. These 'Love Boxes' contain medical supplies for treating infections that are associated with HIV/AIDS such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, fever and retinitis. When these infections are treated, people can continue working and take their place as valued members of the community. A gift of just £20 to the Methodist Church Fund for World Mission will purchase one 'Love Box' that will enhance the quality of life for those suffering with HIV and AIDS.

The spread of HIV/AIDS closer to home is often forgotten or ignored, but the fact remains that there are higher incidences of people living with HIV in the UK than ever before. The Revd. Steve Penrose, Chaplain to London's HIV community and Director of the London Ecumenical Aids Trust says; "The latest figures announced make for worrying reading. People still aren't taking the message of safer sex seriously and drastic measures are needed to make people sit up and think. Contracting HIV is preventable and Britain's faith communities have a major responsibility to help get this message across and support those living with HIV and AIDS".

On Thursday, Steve will be addressing medical staff at the Paediatric HIV Department of St. Mary's Hospital, London, and an ecumenical service at St. Thomas' Hospital in the afternoon. There will be a multi-faith service at Southwark Cathedral on Sunday 4 December, 6:30pm, serving as a time of remembrance and hope shared by people of many different backgrounds and beliefs.

The G8 pledge to provide AIDS treatment to everyone who needs it by 2010 will be a tough one to live up to, and without adequate action and finance, this target could become a broken promise. The Methodist Church's Mission Education Department has produced a variety of excellent resources to encourage people to get involved in any way they can, even though the situation of those living with HIV/AIDS may be far removed from their own. These can be obtained free of charge via the Methodist website (www.methodist.org.uk).

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