Baptist leaders are praying for the eventual discovery of a vaccine for HIV/AIDS and healing for the more than 40 million people in the world with the disease, while also commending people actively working to fight the disease with available treatments, education and research.
In a statement, leaders shared their well-wishes and hope for people involved in the battle against the disease as the 2012 International AIDS Conference continues into its third day in Washington D.C.
The conference, which lasts from July 22-27, is expected to draw 20,000 participants from around the world. Among the prominent participants are former President Bill Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former First Lady Laura Bush and philanthropist Bill Gates.
The Rev. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA on Tuesday commended believers in his denomination actively working to find new treatments for the disease.
He recalled "our helplessness" in the days when the first outbreak of the disease came, saying his fellow church members celebrate medical advances in treatment. He noted that while many can continue to live productive lives with treatment, many, especially in impoverished nations are still suffering.
He said the church is praying for the day when the disease, like many others "will yield its secrets to medical science so that preventative vaccines might be created and this scourge removed from our midst."
"In the meantime, mindful of Jesus' benediction - "Blessed are the merciful" - we commend our churches, missionaries, hospitals, and laity who are actively involved in research, education and healthcare related to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment," Rev. Medley said.
Virginia Holstrom, who leads American Baptist Women's Ministries said her prayer was that the conference "will bring hope and healing to the 40 million persons in the world today living with HIV/AIDS, including alarming numbers of women who live in cultures that make them susceptible to be carriers of the virus as they bear children."
Another top leader in the church spoke of his personal experience with the disease.
"Just over thirty years ago, my uncle was of the first three hundred in Los Angeles County to succumb to AIDS," he said. "I take HIV and AIDS personally. I am especially concerned that even now, HIV/AIDS testing and counseling remains underfunded in this country. We stand with and for those who seek wholeness," he said.
The denomination's International Ministries executive director, Reid S. Trulson expressed gratitude for those carrying on the work, saying they are making a difference.