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Red Letters

28 Jun

Tom Davis, CEO of Children’s Hope Chest, has written a little book applying Jesus’ teachings (the “red letters”) to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa and other needs around the world.  I found it helpful in stirring my heart to care like Jesus does for the “least of these.”  Even though I’ve adopted two children from Africa, I can still be guilty of ignoring the overwhelming need I left behind there.   

Reading Davis’ statistics and stories moved me as I thought about my own daughter.  There are countless others like her orphaned due to a disease they had no control over.  “The worst thing about HIV/AIDS is how it destroys the lives of its innocent victims.  I’m talking about babies who are born HIV positive…These victims are dying by the hundreds and thousands.” (pg. 58)

“Early in 2003,” writes Davis, “over a third of the adult population [of Zimbabwe for example] was infected with HIV.  It is estimated that at least one in three of today’s fifteen-year-olds in Zimbabwe will die from AIDS…Over a million children in Zimbabwe have lost one or both of their parents to AIDS.” (pg. 71)

Davis argues that the church has not done enough to help.  He pleads for Christians to practice Jesus’ words, including: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  He offers many suggestions for how an ordinary person like you and me can make a big difference, and adoption is only one.  Children’s Hope Chest has several programs for getting involved, like 5 for 50.  He lists many other organizations as well.  My mind is whirring with the thoughts and ideas presented in the book.

If you are not familiar with the HIV/AIDS crisis in the world and need your heart stirred, then I recommend the Red Letters.  Some books of this nature can be very negative and accusatory about the church but I didn’t get that from Red Letters.  I thought it appropriately challenged Christians to take Christ’s commands seriously. 

One clarifying remark I would like to add concerns what the Gospel is and isn’t.  I totally agree the Gospel is meant to be lived out in our daily lives.  The Gospel doesn’t just inform us, it affects us, it changes us.  But I disagree, in so far as Davis meant this, that the acts of compassion we do are what the Gospel is all about.  (see pg. 14)

The Gospel is all about the compassion of God in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to live and die in the place of undeserving sinners like you and me and how we can be reconciled to God through faith in Him.  The Gospel is a message about what God has done for us – not what we do for others.  The Gospel motivates and compels us to extend compassion to other people.  We love, the Bible says, because He first loved us (I John 4: 19).  But our compassion is not itself the Gospel.  It’s an example of the Gospel, lived-out imperfectly in Christians’ lives, but the Gospel stands alone as what God has done for us. 


HIV Stages, AIDS Defining Conditions and the Lazurus Effect

19 May

People may not be aware that the World Health Organization stages HIV infection in individuals. A similar concept which people are more familiar with would be cancer staging. Staging is a sort of “how bad is it” measuring stick for HIV infection.

Children with HIV have their own staging system as well. 

Some people mistakenly believe that a person who is HIV+ automatically has AIDS. The truth is those terms define two different conditions.

A person with HIV can be healthy with no detectable signs of HIV infection but they will always be HIV positive. A person can live many years with the HIV virus without developing AIDS.

AIDS is the most serious stage of HIV infection. It results from the destruction of the infected person’s immune system. 

There are infections that tend to be common with more advanced stages of HIV infection. These are called Opportunistic Infections (or OIs for short) because they tend to develop once the immune system has been compromised by the HIV virus.

According to the US CDC definition, a person has AIDS if they are infected with HIV and present with one of the following: A CD4+ T-cell count below 200 cells/µl (or a CD4+ T-cell percentage of total lymphocytes of less than 14%) OR have one or more of the following defining illnesses. (also called Opportunistic Infections)

For now, once a person is diagnosed with the AIDS label it is a permanent one. Though, a person doesn’t have to stay permanently in that sick state. There is something termed the Lazarus Effect. It is used to describe the remarkable improvement seen in AIDS sufferers once they begin treatment.

Many parents who have adopted HIV positive children will testify to the amazing changes their children underwent through proper medical treatment, with adequate nutrition, and in the care of loving parents. Children who were on the brink of death can bounce back and the levels of HIV in their bodies can become undetectable with medication. (Undetectable means that the amount of HIV virus present in the body is so low that medical tests cannot detect the virus. This doesn’t mean a person is cured of HIV; trace amounts will always remain in the system, but, when controlled properly with medication, the virus cannot inflict damage upon the immune system)

Tell me more about HIV

26 Apr

The following information was a handout from

Tell me a bit more about HIV….

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV makes copies of its own genetic material inside human Tcells.

It then uses the T-cells to make more of the virus. This process destroys the healthy t-cells, destroying the immune system. If left untreated, HIV can progress and develop into AIDS.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, and occurs when HIV advances and weakens the immune system to the point that the body can no longer fight off illness and infections.

HIV is not AIDS. AIDS can develop as a result of HIV infection.
While there is currently no cure for HIV or AIDS, the medications that are now available to treat HIV are highly effective.

HIV is now considered a chronic illness, rather than a terminal disease. HIV+ individuals who are receiving treatment can live indefinitely without developing AIDS.

People who are HIV+ have an excellent prognosis (where treatment is available) and studies now show that they can have close to normal life expectancies. HIV+ children can grow up, go to college, get married, have babies, and have every chance of living a long and happy life!

On treatment, the amount of HIV can be brought so low in a person’s blood that it is considered “undetectable. ” HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus and dies quickly outside the body.

HIV can only be spread through pregnancy and birth; breastmilk; sexual activity that mixes bodily fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluid; and through blood to blood contact (such as sharing needles).

HIV+ children are not a risk to people around them, as HIV cannot be spread through casual contact. HIV is not spread through hugs, shaking hands, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, changing diapers, sharing or preparing food, sharing utensils or dishes, kissing, sharing office or classroom space, mosquito bites, bathing, swimming or any other casual way. HIV is not transmitted through urine, stool, mucous, tears or sweat.

There are no documented cases of HIV being transmitted in a school setting, childcare setting, or through normal household contact in the home.

With the amazing advances in treatment for HIV, many families find that their primary concern has been the fear and stigma that still accompany the disease.

You can change this by learning more and by sharing what you know!

An individual’s HIV status is protected by confidentiality laws. For more information on transmission, see the Center for Disease Control website at http://www.cdc. gov/hiv/resource s/factsheets/ transmission. htm