By BRENDA TIRADO TORRES-Special To The Bulletin | Published December 22, 2005
During the Mass for a World Living With AIDS, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory announced that he had established the Office of HIV/AIDS Ministry to serve as the official agency of the local church for the pastoral care of persons living with and affected by the disease.
AIDS ministry in the archdiocese started in the early 1980s, when some pastors began to pay attention to and care for parishioners who were diagnosed with the disease. In the mid-1990s, Father T. J. Meehan, now pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Atlanta, established the HIV/AIDS Task Force. Father Meehan was succeeded by Sister Nora Ryan, OP, who became AIDS ministry coordinator for the archdiocese. Irene Miranda took charge of the ministry after Sister Ryan’s retirement in 2003.
“This is a very important announcement, as our pastor has recognized the importance of this ministry, especially when the Southern region is showing the largest increase in HIV infections in the nation,” said Miranda.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after a decrease in the estimated number of HIV/AIDS cases in the United States from 2001 through 2003, there was an increase of approximately 1 percent from the end of 2003 through the end of 2004.
“When most people hear that there has been an increase of ‘1 percent’ in new cases, they may think that there has not been a significant change at all,” said Miranda. “But when you think what ‘1 percent’ means if we are talking about interest rates, for example, it dawns on you that what may sound like a small figure is really a matter of great concern, and we’re not talking about financial figures but human lives.”
From 2001 through 2004, the estimated number of HIV/AIDS cases in the United States decreased among children less than 13 years of age and among persons aged 13-14 and 30-49. On the other hand, the estimated number of HIV/AIDS cases remained stable among those 25-29 years old, and increased among persons from 15-24 years and 50 years and older. The largest number of HIV/AIDS cases occurred among persons aged 35-39; it accounted for 17 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2004. African-Americans accounted for 50 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in the same year.