As we mark both the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day and of acet UK, Margaret Sentamu, acet UK patron, reflects on how the two are interwined.
"acet UK began when Dr Patrick Dixon visited the AIDS ward of a London hospital in 1987. The first thing he saw was a desperately sick young man. Anxious, sweaty, and fighting for every breath, he was totally alone and about to die.
Fear, judgement, and hostility surrounded the HIV epidemic at that time. Not one of the 100 cancer hospices in Britain would accept someone with AIDS, and HIV which was incorrectly thought to be a virus that was passed only between men who had sex with men. Seeing this stigma and discrimination spurred Patrick and his wife Sheila to action. Following God’s prompting, Patrick wrote The Truth about AIDS and on April 19th 1988 ACET was officially born!
Unfortunately, I know personally the devastation that HIV and AIDS can bring. Twenty years ago, before antiretroviral medication, I lost a brother and sister and other family members to HIV/AIDS. Although I am grateful for how far we have come, I also see the need for continued education and compassionate response. It is our personal experiences, of seeing someone suffering, experiencing stigma, not having access to effective medication, that incites true change.
As we celebrate acet UK’s 30th anniversary, we reflect on the privilege it is to be part of the Christian response to HIV. Over 300,000 copies of AIDS and You (Patrick’s second book) have been distributed because people wanted to help, but did not know where to begin. acet UK shifted attitudes, challenged cultural norms, and broke through taboos to create a movement of people passionate about education.
Today you will find ACET programmes in sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. Although cultures may differ, each have the same desire to help others see their value and to experience true love and acceptance. We thank God for each and every life that has been transformed and look ahead in eager anticipation of what the next 30 years will bring!"
Read more about the work of acet UK in our 30th anniversary brochure below.