Leading medical journal, The Lancet, announced this week that HIV patients taking the latest antiretroviral drugs can now expect to live nearly as long as the rest of the population. (The BBC also broke the news, in slightly more accessible terms!) This is clearly terrific news. There are two things we should mention, in connection with it:
Firstly, the study which underpins this announcement focuses on patients from Europe and North America. The situation in the global south is not quite so rosy. Although progress is being made in developing nations, poverty, stigma and lack of access to medication are still pushing HIV infection rates alarmingly high. (According to a 2016 UNAIDS report, 35 million people worldwide are now living with the virus.) There is a lot of work yet to be done.
Secondly, and more positively, the progress in treating HIV is a reminder that change is possible. In the case of HIV, this change has taken in excess of 30 years, but it has indeed come. It’s an encouragement to persevere in addressing other issues which may, at times, seem insurmountable. For example, as we and our partners address witchcraft accusations against children, we frequently bump up against deeply-ingrained cultural beliefs, which must be challenged in order for real change to come. It can be a long, painstaking and even discouraging process. But if change is possible with an issue as serious, complex and intractable as HIV, change is also possible with child witch accusations. May God give us the faith and determination to persevere.