Those suffering with AIDS should be treated with dignity, kindness and increased compassion, a senior Church leader said today in a statement in support of World AIDS Day.
Speaking at a news conference in Salt Lake City, Elder Robert C. Oaks, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, described AIDS as a tragic and disruptive condition that reaches around the world and into every level of society.
“Families, individuals and whole communities have felt its painful and fatal effects,” Elder Oaks said. “We mourn with those who have lost loved ones to AIDS and salute the tireless caregivers who give comfort and assistance to those battling with these trials.
“We hope that events such as this will increase compassion toward those touched by the disease and promote learning and understanding to limit the incidence of AIDS.”
Elder Oaks urged people everywhere to “follow the example of Jesus of Nazareth to care for those in need to the best of their ability.”
The news conference followed a World AIDS Day faith leadership breakfast at which religious and government speakers addressed strategies for education, collaboration and prevention.
After several years of decline, HIV rates began rising in 2002 and have climbed steadily since. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) says that collaborative efforts in education and prevention by religious, health and community organizations can help reverse the trend.
Utah was singled out by the DHHS in 2005 because of its low incidence of AIDS and its effective prevention programs. Salt Lake City was one of nine cities in the U.S., and many around the world, that participated in World AIDS Day events.
Other speakers at today’s event included the Rev. Tom Goldsmith of the First Unitarian Church, Dr. James Mason, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alex M. Azar II, deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Deborah Parham Hopson, associate administrator for HIV/AIDS at the DHHS.