Helping to plan this year’s community Transgender Day of Remembrance service and Week of Awareness — the community group meets Thursday, September 8, 7:30 in the Women’s Center;
Getting in on the excitement of setting up V-Week 2012 and the 2012 Women’s Center production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, on Friday, September 9, 12:30 (after chapel), in the Women’s Center;
Meeting Rev. Melissa DeRosia, author of A Girlfriend’s Guide to Ministry, just out from Alban Institute, in the Women’s Center for Light + Lunch on Friday, September 23, 12:30;
Joining the Team Women’s Center, Women at the Well, and More Light for the Louisville AIDS Walk by going to our team and donation site, raising money for services for people living with HIV/AIDS in the Louisville Metro area, and then walking with us on Sunday, September 25.
Act fast! Because this Fall is shaping up to be Fabulous!There is still time to fuel the Women’s Center’s fast and fabulous Fall effort by making a donation to the Women’s Center during our Summer Donation Days!
You can go to OUR ONLINE DONATION SITE, the LPTS Online Donation Site (designate your gift to the Women’s Center), or send your check payable to LPTS – WOMEN’S CENTER FUND to The Women’s Center at Louisville Seminary, 1044 Alta Vista Rd., Louisville, KY 40205.
The Louisville AIDS Walk is coming up, and the Women’s Center is looking forward to once again joining hands and fund raising forces with More Light at LPTS and with Women at the Well to make a contribution to the funds available for helping people with HIV/AIDS here in the Louisville area, raising awareness about the preventability of HIV/AIDS and its circuitous links to oppressive gender- and race-based structures, and building community and solidarity by getting out in the fresh September air and doing something good together.
If you will be in the Louisville area on Sunday, September 25, join us at 2:00 p.m. at the Belvedere to get together for our team picture, and to be ready to start out with the other walkers at 3:00 p.m.
Whether or not you can join us for the walk, please consider sponsoring our team or one of the walkers, and make a difference in the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS in the Louisville area.
We had a wonderful hour or so of walking, talking, meeting and greeting friends walking with other groups, all the while knowing that we had helped the efforts of the Louisville AIDS Walk to the tune of over $1,200 in combined online and cash donations from Team Women’s Center supporters.
So many thanks, everyone! Let’s all celebrate this great good day!
AIDS is a unique disease, in that it is fatal, incurable, and preventable. Technically, in fact, people do not die of AIDS; people die from “opportunistic infections” that afflict those whose immune systems have been destroyed by the disease process. And while it is the case that better medications, treatment, and knowledge about the disease are helping people live longer and better with HIV, the disease that can lead to AIDS, this doesn’t mean there is now a cure for AIDS. The medicines are costly, treatment is complicated and requires patient cooperation for its effectiveness.
So people who have become complacent about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS — including many young people, who seem to believe that “there’s a pill for that now” — don’t take the precautions they need to take to prevent the spread of AIDS. This is one reason young people, and especially young women, are more and more the ones who show up with newly diagnosed cases of HIV. Knowledge, taking the disease seriously, and recognizing that “it happens here” and not just to “other people” in “other places,” contributes to prevention. Celeste talked of her sadness and frustration, as an AIDS educator and counselor, at seeing young people who have acquired HIV+ status; one of her missions is to make that number ever smaller.
Celeste pointed out that AIDS is a special concern for women. The incidence of HIV/AIDS among women is on the rise, as is the incidence of cases attributable to heterosexual transmission. It is particularly important for women to know their own HIV status, to have frank and open communication with their partners, and to protect themselves. Women often do not know they have the disease, until they become pregnant; at that point, while there are treatments that can reduce the risk of having a baby who is also infected with HIV, it is too late to prevent illness for the woman. Women’s situation illustrates the complex factors that encourage silence and false complacency with respect to AIDS, that are connected with “the way people get AIDS.”
There is still an enormous stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, Celeste said. Many of her clients hide their status from significant others in their lives, including their adult children, suffering the isolation and stress that comes with secret keeping. That very fact indicates the depth of shame and self-blame people with HIV/AIDS can feel. That shame is still fueled by the many others who reject and demonize HIV/AIDS patients. Combatting that sense of shame is another of Celeste’s missions. Here, because AIM is an agency which takes the life of the spirit seriously, mobilizing spiritual resources is vitally important. Celeste spoke highly of partners in this ministry, including Central Presbyterian Church, which hosts a monthly dinner for HIV/AIDS sufferers and their friends and caregivers, which is a much-needed occasion for sociality and human connection.We are grateful to Celeste Anderson for taking the time to join us last night, and to share her knowledge and experience with us. We learned much from her — and enjoyed meeting her daughter, as well, who made two dynamic, colorful posters! We look forward to seeing her on Sunday, at the Louisville AIDS Walk registration tent. The money we raise by walking and finding sponsors will go to fund AIM’s work in the coming year, as well as the work of 10 other agencies who work with Louisville area HIV/AIDS sufferers, their caregivers, and families.
As noted earlier, the answer to why the Women’s Center at LPTS walks in the Louisville AIDS Walk has a historical and a theological part. We addressed the historical part a few days ago. Here is a view on the theological part:
The theological part has something to do with stigma. That might best be illustrated by thinking about the average church prayer list. Picture that list. It’s probably long — the list at my church covers half a page of the bulletin. The one we used for years at the Wednesday evening Bible study was a full page, two columns. Think about who is on that list, and what we know about them. Most often, it lists the people in and known to the congregation who are sick, or in the hospital, or about to have surgery, or at home recovering from surgery; people whose mothers or fathers or cousins or aunts recently died, in accidents or at an old age. Now picture what you do to get a name on the list. Picture yourself walking up to the church secretary and saying “I’d like the church to pray for my niece/daughter/mom who has been diagnosed HIV+.” Picture yourself standing up in the prayer meeting and saying “I could use prayer for the challenges of living with my HIV+ status.”
We know those prayer requests are more difficult to make than the ones asking for prayer for our relatives and friends suffering with cancer or needing joint replacements. We know that people who are living with HIV/AIDS are living with a disease that entails all the affliction of disease, plus a still-powerful social stigma that makes it difficult for a person to acknowledge that disease, to seek the help and treatment needed, and to experience the grace and care of the community.
Participating in the Louisville AIDS Walk moves that grace and care out into the community in an active way. We believe God’s grace is active; Jesus exemplified active grace; Jesus’ disciples are called to that practice. The theology on that point is simple and direct.
But the reasons we know there’s a stigma attached to HIV/AIDS underscore yet another theological reason for Louisville AIDS Walk-ing. We know that among the reasons for that stigma are punitive and rejecting attitudes about “what HIV/AIDS means” that persist, even in the churches that should be — we also know — the places that proclaim the good news of reconciliation to the world. We have probably all heard people give voice to those attitudes. They may not even be couched in the form “Who sinnned, this man or his parents?” They may express judgment directly: “Well, that’s what people get when they . . .” or “AIDS is God’s punishment for . . .” Often, what HIV/AIDS is said to be a punishment for amounts to a rejection of rules for gender and sexuality said to have been made by God.
We must insist on a different vision of God. It has always been the mission of the Women’s Center to proclaim that the stance on gender that holds that women are bound by divine command to serve men by making babies and taking beatings is stenotic and mistaken. The stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, especially where it lingers in the church, often derives from that same stenotic position on gender. It has always been the mission of the Women’s Center to proclaim a vision of God informed by the revelation of created diversity (e.g., Gen. 1:27), an expansive call to worship (e.g., Isaiah 56:3-8, Rev. 22:17), and an emphatic stress on justice and wholeness (e.g., Micah 6:8). The stigma attached to HIV/AIDS evaporates in the light of that vision.
The Women’s Center’s mission and vision urge solidarity with everyone who faces oppression, exclusion or aspersions on grounds of gender — including many people living with HIV/AIDS.
That is another reason the Women’s Center participates in the Louisville AIDS Walk.
[*Here’s that word: YES, Team Women’s Center will walk in the Louisville AIDS Walk on Sunday, September 26! YES, we hope YOU and YOUR FRIENDS, et al. will join the team online here — LINK TO THE TEAM SITE — and then contact more friends, family members, former employers, teachers, and others who might sponsor your effort. This is a way to raise money for services to our neighbors in the Louisville area who are living with HIV/AIDS and their families. The Women’s Center team will assemble on the Belvedere at 2:00 p.m. — we think that will give us enough time to turn in the funds we’ve raised, get our team picture taken, and be part of the walk that begins at 3:00 p.m.]
The answer to that question is partly historical, and partly theological.
The historical part is that the Women’s Center started walking in the Louisville AIDS Walk as part of its collaboration with the More Light and Women at the Well groups on campus. Both of these groups have ties to the Women’s Center because of our common concern about the way gender, and the role people think it should or must play in society, affects people’s lives, livelihoods and life prospects. Women at the Well is a group for solidarity, support, education and advocacy for African-American women in the Seminary community. More Light has been and is an organization that educates and advocates around issues of special concern to LGBTQ people.
Many people are aware that HIV/AIDS is a special concern for LGBTQ folks and their allies. [more info] Fewer people may be aware that HIV/AIDS is also a special concern for the African-American community. That is particularly true at a time when young African-American women are among those most at risk for newly reported HIV+ status, and when decreased funding for AIDS awareness and prevention programs in recent years disproportionately affected this group of people. [more info]
In other words, part of the reason we started walking in the Louisville AIDS Walk is that it became a priority for us because it was a priority for our partners in mission. We keep walking because it keeps mattering.
Stay tuned for the theological part!