HIV and the Church

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Newly Diagnosed

Kay's Prayer for You

Kay Warren, Founder of the HIV&AIDS Initiative would love to pray for you. Click the play button above to pray with Kay or read her prayer for you below.

“God, one of your beloved children is in need today. Your child has learned that HIV is an unwelcomed companion and he/she is hurting deeply. Would you give him/her your peace in the middle of the emotional chaos of this moment? Being diagnosed with HIV is a shocking reality, and your child is reeling with the news. May he/she discover you are the only one that can be counted on; the one who will never abandon or leave him/her. Please bring the right doctors, medical care, medication, family and faith support to allow your child to survive and thrive. Thank you that HIV cannot short circuit your good plans and purpose for his/her life. Thank you, Jesus Christ, for making it possible to have a relationship with the God who created us through your shed blood on the cross. We look forward to the future with HOPE. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Scriptures of Encouragement and Hope

The Bible offers comfort and strength for our dark times. Here are five verses to hold onto when you feel like your world is caving in. Read them over and over again until they become second nature to you.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:6-8
“Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.” - Psalm 119:49-50
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” - Psalm 23:4
“Give all your worries and care to God, for he cares for you.” - 1 Peter 5:7

You Can't Do it Alone

Create a support system. Isolation is the biggest mistake a newly diagnosed person can make. Trying to face each new challenge alone is not a good idea.

To build a strong support network, you will need to decide which family member/s and/or friend/s can be trusted to be helpful. You will also need people to talk to who are going through or have gone through the same issues as you are encountering. Hopefully, you will be able to connect with people in your church who can show you God’s love in real, tangible ways, and many churches have support groups for people living with HIV and their families and friends which can be joined now. Obviously, a qualified, well-educated medical team will be important to add. Aids Services Organizations (ASOs) can be helpful for advocacy, information and support. For your foundation, turn to God for strength and comfort. Those who do find that “God is a ever-present help in time of trouble!”

  • Disclosure

    With an important exception, you do not have to tell anyone of your HIV status in whom you don’t feel comfortable confiding. The only people you must tell are your partner and any people with whom you may have had sexual relationships or with whom you may have shared an injectable needle that may have occurred close to or since your diagnosis.

    Regrettably, it is also important to know that some people in your life may chose to dissociate when they find out you are HIV positive. They are usually not “deliberately mean-spirited, just people lacking education, making ill-informed and unfair judgments based on preconceived ideas. If and when this happens, you will, at least, have an opportunity to find out who in your life truly cares about you and on whom you can depend.

    When all is said and done, remember this: HIV is a disease of the body, not the heart, mind or soul. You are still the same, essential person today that you were the day before you received your diagnosis. Rest in that truth and move forward in confidence.

    By the way, there are now many great articles on disclosure that can guide you when disclosing your HIV status to partners, friends, family, and new people who come into your life after your diagnosis. Check some of the trusted sources listed above and go to respected sites on the internet for help.

  • The HIV Community

    Early in the epidemic and before anyone knew it was a pandemic, HIV+ people and family and friends came together to fight for research, funding, services and personal and medical rights. In so doing, an HIV community was formed and continues to thrive across all demographics through activism, advocacy and most importantly, deeply committed support for each other. So we emphasize, you are not alone.

    You are a new member of a worldwide network of approximately 35 million people living with HIV, and there are innumerable ways to connect with people who are facing and living through many of the same issues as are you.

  • Medical Care

    If you first tested HIV+ with an HIV home test, get retested by the medical community to ensure the accuracy of results. Even if you tested “negative” but you know of or suspect exposure to HIV, you will want to be retested with every exposure. The only definitive and ultimately comforting way to know your status is to have your test done by professionals.

    Should you test “negative” through a testing lab, GREAT! However, you may want to discuss whether another test is indicated in a few weeks or months to confirm your status. If you tested “negative”, for your own sake, be thankful and discontinue high-risk behavior of every kind that could lead to you being infected.

    Should you actually test “positive”, the next step is to find an HIV specialist. An HIV specialist is a medical doctor (MD) with experience in caring for people living with the virus. Get advice from people living with HIV concerning which doctors in your area are HIV specialists. Interview them. It is crucial that you are comfortable with your doctor, and that s/he is the “right one” for you. Don’t worry about hurting a doctor’s feelings by not choosing them as your physician/specialist. They want the “right fit” too!

    When you find an MD in whom you are confident, follow his or her directions carefully. Their advice contributes directly to your well-being, quality of life and longevity. Let them be the “experts”, while you continue to do your own research and advocacy.

    We would advise that you also create a log or journal for yourself that is portable and updatable. When you visit your HIV specialist, be sure to write down questions to be discussed during your visit and record any reactions or symptoms that you think may be related to the disease or medications. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, record answers and alert your doctor to any research that may be pertinent to your situation.

  • A Local Church

    Your church can be a great source of support. Many churches have support groups and services for people living with HIV. Check with your church first, as entry into these groups may be by invitation for the protection of individual privacy.

    Your personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ is an important foundation of strength and guidance that will help you through this difficult time. Living in the power of the Holy Spirit is crucial to your overall health. Cultivate your relationship to God through starting and maintaining a regular time of Scripture reading, prayer, reflection and action. And, you might consider another option.

    If your church does not have an HIV support group, it may have a small group ministry you can join. The small group you choose may not initially know your status, but it will allow you to walk the road of faith and grow with others. It is our experience that – over time – a wonderful small group may become a care group in which you may confide your status and receive support!

    Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has an HIV&AIDS Initiative that serves people living with HIV&AIDS through compassionate care and support. The HIV&AIDS Initiative also provides inspiration and functional models for any church looking to start or improve their HIV&AIDS ministry. If your church wants help and needs assistance getting started, invite them to check out our website and contact us. To learn more about specific resources available in the United States, please contact us at HIV@saddleback.com or (949) 609-8555.

Voices of the HIV+ Community

Featured Article

When the Dawn Breaks
Authors: David Miller and Mariel Selbovitz, MPH

If you just found out you’re HIV+, after a deep breath, take a moment and read what a number of long term HIV survivors, AIDS treatment activists and pastors have learned to help successfully navigate through a positive life.

If you’ve just tested positive for HIV, let’s start here. Finding out about surviving HIV is nothing like it was 30 years ago at the dawn of the epidemic. There’s a fantastic, dynamic community all around the world, waiting to embrace people who have just found out they’re positive, just as they are, to help manage the fears and overcome the barriers to treatment, the navigation of essential services and the benefits and to master the details that determine you successfully living with HIV.

We’re closer to a cure then ever. We’re still years away. Getting used to contradictions is part of surviving and thriving with HIV. Your belief system is going to determine more about the first months of living with HIV then any other element. If you’ve developed a strong personal relationship with Jesus Christ that’s going to help you get through the moments when nothing makes sense, when your first round of antiretroviral therapy is introducing you to the wonderful world of side effects, when you are thinking that this is definitely not part of the plan you had for the rest of your life. There are dozens of new drugs and approaches to advance treatments of HIV, from therapeutic vaccines to gene therapy, advances in HIV research are occurring everyday. It’s a full time job just to keep up with the advances being made that hundreds of people are dedicated to all over the world.

You will wake up the day after you test positive. If you drink coffee, you may want coffee, just as you had the day before. You may have to show up for work (so if you’re going to get tested, make sure you do it leaving yourself enough time for dealing with what may be surprising news-), and you may have to deal with some of the same obligations you had the day before you knew you were positive. If it all seems impossible take a look at Matthew 17:20 "He said to them, 'Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.'"

We know more about the virus, more about the medications and more about the immune system then ever before. That hard won knowledge is going to be your best defense, your point of the spear in the fight against HIV. Getting infected may have made you hysterical, sad, angry and feel hopeless, abandoned, ashamed. We’ve all been there, you’re not alone. . From the other side of testing positive, as things inevitably slow down, Living with HIV requires getting smarter and the tools have been built for a generation for you to do so faster then you ever believed possible.

Living with HIV has never been easy. Living with HIV has never been easier. There is a mandate for personal responsibility, a recognition of increasing longevity for those of us with access to treatment and a sense of obligation for all those who don’t.

If you’re wondering what kind of possible purpose you can have now, what your life can mean after you’ve gotten the news, you’re in for a big surprise. God knows what He’s doing, and if you give him the chance, He’ll prove it. If you’re now living with HIV, even if you’ve received an AIDS diagnosis from the inception, you may discover that, after you settle in from the shock, the sense of denial, the anger and confusion, that you’ll now have some compelling personal reasons to try to make a difference like so many people with HIV/AIDS have done before. The opportunities are endless to change the course of this epidemic, the reasons are clear and there is an amazing level of support available for you to take full advantage.

Regardless of how you became infected, HIV doesn’t determine you identity, your relationship with God, your salvation through Jesus Christ or the amount of love and courage you now can share with millions of others like you, who need every advantage they can get, in countries around the world, where access to treatment for HIV, TB and malaria is very very far from universal. You may come to the conclusion that sharing with people half a world away the hope you have to pursue for yourself right now, knowing that you’re being provided with treatment and care denied to so many millions of others, is an essential part of your own survival. Like we said before –contradictions define living with HIV.

You may be surprised to know that one of your best places of support is a church where the Bible is taught, you’re introduced to Jesus Christ and you are supported and love. Saddleback Church and many other Ministries have done a lot of work to put a lot of great material together for Pastors and congregations to offer support for people with HIV on a local and global level. HIV doesn’t discriminate, and people from every walk of life are living with HIV.

Talking to your partner is a whole other discussion…one that takes a lot of preparation and forethought and obviously, is on the forefront of your concerns, as it will be with other family members. We’re taking one step at a time here.

Don’t expect to feel optimistic all the time, don’t tolerate feeling depressed disproportionately either. You can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought. Check out Isaiah 41:10 "fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." And if necessary, don’t be afraid to seek out professional counseling and medical support to deal with prolonged depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

Take a little time to digest what this new chapter in your life CAN become. Living with HIV is only a PART of your life now, not what defines you. After the dawn, it’ll be a new day and there’s a lot to look forward to.