As we deal with the coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy to forget that a generation ago the world faced another virus that killed 32 million people. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) caused a ghastly disease called AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) that left 17 million as orphans. Though it was often spread by sexual misbehavior, others were infected because of contaminated blood transfusions or reused medical equipment. Tragically, many babies were infected when they were born.
We are thankful that HIV can be controlled today by antiretroviral treatments, but back then AIDS was a death sentence, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ brought the hope of eternal life to many who were suffering and desperate for hope.
Samaritan’s Purse got involved in HIV/AIDS ministry in the 1990s through our support of Rachel’s House in Romania, which cared for dozens of children who had been accidentally infected with HIV. Even back in 1999, more than a thousand children in Romania had died of AIDS. The virus was so feared that surviving children were scorned publicly. At Rachel’s House, however, they received the love and nurture that every child longs for, and they knew for sure that God loved them.
In the ensuing years, Samaritan’s Purse partnered with AIDS ministries in dozens of countries. In 2002, we organized an unprecedented world conference on the Christian response to HIV/AIDS. Christian workers from 85 countries gathered in Washington, D.C., for the conference, called Prescription for Hope, which led to dozens of initiatives for care for the sick and the orphans. The speakers included Sen. Bill Frist who said, “In the fight against AIDS, no institution is more uniquely situated to help the poor and needy than the church.”
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