November 23, 2020
To: The Editors of the Amarillo Globe News and our Neighbors
From: The Clergy of the Open and Affirming Congregations of the Texas Panhandle
We’re in the middle of a pandemic, but we have not forgotten that we are also still in the middle of an epidemic that began over 40 years ago. December 1, 2020 is World AIDS Day, and we, as clergy, are paying attention. We are paying attention to how HIV and AIDS are still affecting over 94,000 individuals and families in Texas – approximately 2,500 who live here in the Panhandle — and we are paying attention to the 35 million individuals and families affected around the world.
And, here’s the kicker, even after 40 years of studying the HIV virus, while we have drugs to help prevent transmission, and treatments for those infected, we have no vaccine yet. Anyone and everyone are still at risk of becoming infected if they do not take precautions.
The good news is that we do have resources here in our community. For over 33 years, the Panhandle AIDS Support Organization (PASO) has helped HIV positive individuals and those that have a diagnosis of AIDS access to medical care, life-saving HIV medications, housing and utility assistance, and a variety of “other” services to those most in need of help.
So, what are we asking of you? We are asking that you join us in pausing to say prayers for the 36 million lives lost to this virus. We ask that you extend your kindness and compassion to the people who are living with the virus. We ask that you be of good courage and not look away when we remind you that HIV is still here and still killing too many people.
It’s not just a gay disease. It never was.
It’s not just an IV drug user disease. It never was.
It’s not just blood transfusion disease. It never was.
It is a disease that has broken our hearts again and again and we must never look away.
Rev. Andy Blair, First Presbyterian Church, Canyon
Rev. Kati Collins, St. Luke Presbyterian, Amarillo
Rev. Janell Blair
Rev. Bernie Barbour, Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church Amarillo
Rev. Nell Newton, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Amarillo