For those who work on the issue of global AIDS, Thursday’s event was a mountaintop experience. Here’s the video: World AIDS Day
As recognition and encouragement go, it’s hard to beat:
Three Presidents of the United States (plus one of Tanzania);
Three rock stars;
Congressional stalwarts of the left and right;
And the richest man in the world (I wish there had been time for questions so I could have asked him if he knows the most interesting man in the world – alas, next time).
All of them agreed: because of the work that has been done around the world, we can now say for the first time that we are at the beginning of the end of AIDS. The word for it, simply, is ‘historic.’
Yes, it was a flashy event, with superstar wattage and beautiful words. But that describes at least one or two TV specials a week (even more at this time of year). What made the moment meaningful was the substance behind the words, the human beings behind the statistics.
For example, it is actually true that there are almost 4 million people – mostly in Africa — who would otherwise be dead, alive and well today because they are receiving antiretroviral treatment with support from the American people through PEPFAR. (And millions more are supported through the Global Fund, to which the U.S. are the largest contributor). And it is true that we now know, because of a new study this year, that those millions of people will almost never infect other people, because of the effect of treatment.
That’s just one example. How does one get one’s head around life-and-death numbers that big? There’s no way, our brains don’t have the capacity. But even if we can’t truly grasp the truth, it is there, behind the statistics, behind the words.
Or to return to my original metaphor, it’s good to know there is a real mountain beneath this mountaintop we’re standing on.
But (to borrow an image I think I’ve heard in a sermon or two) we don’t live on the mountaintop, we live in the valley. So now, back to the valley, back to the work. Whatever the work is, for each of us, in this world of many needs.
But still, it’ll help to be able to back look up at that mountaintop and remember being there, won’t it?