Early this morning, I joined a couple of co-workers for an unusual event in front of World Concern’s international headquarters in Seattle.
Hammering by streetlight, we finished placing 1,000 wooden crosses into the ground, each with a red felt ribbon.
Today is World AIDS Day, a time when the general public joins humanitarians to consider the enormity of the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
5,500 people will die today and another 6,000 will be infected. More than two million people will die this year because of AIDS.
The first 500 crosses went into the ground smoothly Sunday afternoon, then we finished in the darkness Monday morning. Hammering was easy. What’s difficult for me is the realization that 1,000 crosses doesn’t even account for one day of deaths due to AIDS. It’s about the number of deaths in four hours.
What has surprised me in my research of AIDS is that three out of four people who die from AIDS live in Africa, more specifically, sub-Saharan Africa, which is approximately the southern 3/4 of the continent. In this incredibly poor area of Africa, the rate of HIV/AIDS is often between 10 and 60 times higher than in America. Seven countries have rates over 15 percent. Generations are dying.
I am proud of World Concern’s work with those affected by HIV and AIDS. We provide humanitarian relief for those with HIV and AIDS, as well as others affected by the virus, including AIDS orphans. Since 2004, World Concern touched the lives of more than 150,000 people AIDS orphans, and nearly 40,000 caregivers. Our AIDS work includes the countries of Haiti, Zambia and Kenya.
I hope that the crosses help show the reality of AIDS. It is not something to be ignored. Most importantly, it is something you can help change, but supporting organizations like World Concern that have a direct, positive influence on the lives of poor and desperate people.
Feel free to come by today, if you are in the Seattle area. The display will be up today, and gone tomorrow. Of course, the challenge of HIV and AIDS will remain after World AIDS Day, and for that, we ask the you remember those affected by AIDS year-round.
World Concern is located on the campus of CRISTA ministries. The address: 19303 Fremont Ave. N, Shoreline, WA, 98133.