Saturday, Dec. 1, is not only a day for celebration (“Christmas in Carnation”), it is also World AIDS Day.
At 2 p.m. that day, in the midst of our Christmas bazaar, the bell at Tolt Congregational United Church of Christ will ring 21 times to mark the 21 years of the AIDS pandemic. The ringing of our church bell is an invitation for you to do something to stem the spread of HIV.
HIV/AIDS is a pandemic that affects us all. An estimated 900,000 people in the United States are currently living with HIV or AIDS, and half of all new HIV infections in our country are among people under age 25. Every hour, two or more young Americans contract HIV. Why? Because too many of our young people are engaging in high-risk behaviors, such as unprotected sexual intercourse and sharing needles for injecting drugs and steroids.
Sixty-five percent of our U.S. youth are sexually active by the 12th grade, many of those with multiple partners. Around the world, more than 36 million people are estimated to be living with HIV or AIDS today. Nine out of 10 don’t know they are infected!
We all have the power – and the responsibility – to make a difference. We must work together to promote safer sex, individual responsibility and tolerance toward those living with HIV and AIDS.
I invite you to take the time to share this information with the youth you know. I invite you to join them in learning more about HIV and how to prevent infection. I invite you to help others learn how to prevent the spread of this devastating illness.
The Rev. Jeffrey S. Spencer
Tolt Congregational United Church of Christ