Friday, November 30, 2012

Naming Names

The needy shall not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever. (Psalm 9.18)

Eddy, Terrence, Randy, George, Toloff, Jeff, Steve, Patrice, Brett, Renard, Ivan, two Larrys, Tony, Joey, three Michaels, Eileen, Laird, Dean, two Patricks, five Johns, Eric, two Jameses and a Jimmy, Howard, Keith, Rodney, Charles—the list of hollows that HIV/AIDS has carved in my heart goes on and on. The roster of friends and loved ones living with HIV/AIDS is many times longer. And it would be dishonest to pretend I’m any different from them. But for God’s grace, there’s no reason why I’m not listed among the lost or afflicted. In this, I am not alone. Many of us have behaved recklessly in the past. None of us can explain how or why we’ve been spared.

These days, it’s very rare that we grieve AIDS-related deaths. For that we are truly grateful. Yet not an hour passes without more fatalities added to the list. Today, the lives lost to or afflicted with HIV/AIDS have names like Gulu, Siphiwe, Noé, Toku, Jaspreet, Wang Pinghe. The grotesque horrors we endured in the fast-receding past are constant realities in Africa, India, and Asia. There, it’s much harder to identify HIV/AIDS patient types and focus prevention on at-risk populations. On the other side of the globe, HIV/AIDS is an equal-opportunity destroyer. It sweeps up men, women, children, gays, straights, rich, poor, educated, illiterate, powerful, and powerless with random disregard. It takes its toll in lives, religious and social violence, economic hardship, and decimated families.

With this weekend's observance of World AIDS Day, I invite all of us to bear witness to lives currently afflicted with HIV/AIDS by recounting those we lost so long ago. Naming names is our most powerful means to remind us of the virus’s terrors. Take a moment to open the comments and record the names of people you’ve lost. If it’s one or one hundred, name them. Recall how helpless and angry and betrayed you felt as they slipped away. Now think of hundreds of thousands—many in faraway places, with strange-sounding names—presently experiencing what you went through. Wherever they live, they cannot be forgotten. We cannot allow their hope to perish.

Pray for them. Suffer with them. And offer whatever you can—your money, time, or talent—to help combat this plague and end their pain.

Naming the names of those we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS is how we bear witness to the sufferings of those currently ravaged by the virus.