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World AIDS Day

Shared from the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church-

On this World AIDS Day, we pray that God will open our hearts to the understanding that we are all affected by HIV/AIDS. Within the BWC, an amazing ministry of compassion, healing, and hope - the Quality of Life Retreats - provides respite, renewal and relationship. For $150, your church can sponsor a person living with HIV/AIDS so that they can experience the life-giving power of community and of God. Gifts can be sent to BWC Treasurer, 11711 E. Market Place, Fulton, MD 20759. Learn more.

The world community commemorates World AIDS Day on December 1 each year. This day is a valuable time to remember those who have died from HIV/AIDS. It is also an opportunity to share pertinent information about HIV.

The theme of World AIDS Day 2020 is "'Ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic: Resilience and Impact." Today, 38 million people are living with HIV or AIDS. Women and people of color are most impacted. Infections are decreasing in the developing world, but not so much in those countries plagued with poverty and distress.

Quality of Life Retreats (QLR), an HIV/AIDS ministry of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, continues its 32-year commitment of offering respite, renewal, and relational support to people living with HIV and AIDS in our region.

Participants gather for inspiration and education while forming close bonds with one another. Our retreats provide life-enhancing encounters and learning experiences to educate participants about their conditions and to help them manage the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual challenges linked to living with HIV and AIDS. In the process they develop and renew healthy relationships with others, with themselves, and with God or another source of their spiritual strength.

During this special "time apart" from daily routines and responsibilities, our men and women find opportunities to challenge habits and addictions, and wrestle with difficult emotions like guilt, anger, grief, shame, fear, isolation, and loss of self-esteem. As a result, many gain a sense of fellowship and camaraderie, safety, confidence, hope, and renewed joy for living.

While TV commercials assert that people living with HIV/AIDS can just "Take one pill" and live a normal life, we know that not to be the case for everyone. Most of the 61 retreat participants in 2019 (43 women and 18 men) represented underserved seniors, ages 59-69 years, in urban settings. Within the challenges of fixed incomes, affordable housing shortages, limited transportation, and escalating health care costs, our participants are often faced with difficult choices between food, medication, and rent.

HIV infection and AIDS are still a major public health concern even though many of our friends, co-workers, and church members have the mistaken idea that with available medications, all is well. We must not forget our sisters and brothers who struggle every day, not only with the challenges listed above, but also with the heavy burden of stigma that still attaches to this viral infection.

During this time of COVID-19, the challenges facing many served by our retreats have become more complicated. We have been unable to offer our in-person retreats; however, we have continued reaching out to the HIV community. In September, we held our first virtual zoom retreat, "Sharing Creative Strategies Learned During COVID-19." This was so well received that we just held a second virtual retreat, "When Covid-19 Crosses Paths with HIV," featuring Dr. Todd Brown, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University.

We are planning a third virtual retreat in February that will update the HIV community on COVID-19 and HIV and also address the issue of isolation and the psychosocial determinants. While we will continue to hold virtual opportunities for the HIV community to connect, it is our hope to return to in-person retreats when safe in 2021.

As we remain committed to QLR in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, we walk together in faith that resources, along with our volunteers and Board Members, will be sustained as we search for ways to continue this vital retreat ministry. The average cost for a person to participate in a retreat is $150 with the total retreat cost between $6,000-$8,000. We hope you will consider sponsoring one or more participants or a portion of a retreat.


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