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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Life after AIDS

Four Lutheran families find legacy of renewed faith

Before it had a name, AIDS was described as an "often-debilitating disease" by the first U.S. doctor to report his patient's unknown illness to the Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta. That was in 1981.

Within the next 20 years in the United States, AIDS became a name we all knew — and feared — as 774, 467 cases were recorded and 448,060 deaths logged. Now it is a global pandemic with 36.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS and 21.8 million who have died.

As one of its first acts in its first year, 1988, the ELCA issued a message, AIDS and the Church's Ministry of Caring. While it didn't point out the two groups most susceptible to infection, homosexuals and IV drug users, it stated: "AIDS, often with an intensity greater than many diseases, calls us to remember our common humanity."

The stigma associated with AIDS caused pain as unrelenting as their symptoms for some within the church as they faced their deaths. But the love and caring many also received kindled new faith — in them and in their families. In the August issue, The Lutheran asked readers to share their experience of AIDS and what it has meant to their faith. Four of these stories are shared here.


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