Testing positive does it to some HIVers. For others, it’s starting medsor getting sick. But no matter the cause, most people with HIV know alltoo well what it’s like to have their entire sense of self and safetycome undone in seconds. What may surprise you is that many HIVers witha religious bent define such moments less as emotional traumas thanspiritual crises. Not that they welcomemisery, but they do try to see it as an opportunity for growth andhealing. In fact, it’s often what sends them back to God again.
Ifyour mind keeps playing the sound of a long-forgotten hymn, considerheeding the call. Such subtle intuitions can lead to life-changingdiscoveries, and a church, temple or mosque may provide the hope andstrength you can’t find elsewhere. But seeking comfort in the arms oforganized religion—especially when it is so often the voice of anti-PWArhetoric and policies—is a hard pill for many HIVers to swallow.
“Theessence of ministry should be the willingness to listen first, nomatter where a person comes from,” says the United Church of Christ’sMichael Schuenemeyer about intolerant congregations. The minister, whodirects his church’s global HIV-awareness programs, encourages allsoul-searching HIVers to look for an open and affirming one, no mattertheir faith of origin.
For the best resource on HIV-sensitivedenominations, look to the divine light of the Web. The Council forReligious AIDS Networks (www.aidsfaith.com) and BeliefNet(www.beliefnet.com) will get you started. Going home may befrightening, but as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “You don’t have to seethe whole staircase—just take the first step.”
- Unitarian Universalist Association (www.uua.org)
- United Church of Christ (www.ucc.org)
- Center for Progressive Christianity (www.tcpc.org)
- Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (www.cbst.org)
- Union for Reform Judaism (www.urj.org).