Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
"Jesus went throughout Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues and
proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and
curing every disease and every sickness among the people."
- Matthew 4:23
Curing every disease and every sickness among the people……
When I read this Bible verse, I naturally thought of my career in the federal service. I worked for the National Institutes of Health for nearly forty years. Others in my family have worked there and some still do. My mother was a nurse. Health is in my family. Health is important to me.
When I read the text about “curing EVERY disease” I am stunned as to how large a task that must have been. I am continually overwhelmed by what it must be like to be a member of a medical team in a foreign country. There are so many diseases in evidence. HIV/AIDS and malaria are cited in this goal, but so are “other diseases.”
Other diseases, too. There are infectious diseases, life-threatening diseases, disfiguring diseases, childhood diseases, easily diagnosed diseases, hard-to-diagnose ones, visible ones, and invisible ones. How do we prioritize just what to treat? How are conditions different in developing countries? What can we do here in the developed world to try to assist others? I still am astounded that the Millennium Development Goals were agreed to in 2000 by 189 heads of state and government -- including the United States. This was in response to the deepest material brokenness in the world today. Poverty the likes of which we just don't see within the United States. Poverty levels that lead to a child under 5 dying every three seconds from preventable, treatable causes, and 8,000 people (more than died in the September 11 attacks) dying each day of HIV/AIDS.
When I visit doctors here in the US I always give thanks for what we have here for our medical care. But I also worry about what other people don’t have. This is why this is such a crucial MDG goal. Medical care must be made available in all parts of the world. This is not a complicated project, but it is both expensive and hard to attain. I think of invisible diseases. These are the really tricky set of those “other diseases.” These include addictions, mental illness, heart disease, diabetes, malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and other illnesses and disorders that often go unnoticed by both the patients and medical staff. Each can lead to long-term illness and incapacitation, but medical teams often have their hands full with the gruesome and visible disabilities. All must be addressed.
The MDGs seek to provide treatment to all people in the developing world who suffer from these diseases, both visible and invisible. Jesus healed “every disease and sickness.” We can do no less. Jesus was obviously capable of doing this; we need to provide needed resources so his example can be followed.
John Miers is from Bethesda, Maryland, where he was employed at the National Institutes of Health from 1968 to 2005. He served on the board of St. Luke’s House, a halfway house for persons recovering from mental illness and also serves as Jubilee Officer for the Diocese of Washington. He was a member of National Commission on Science, Technology and Faith for the Episcopal Church and is active in his local church, where he is in the choir, worship committee, pastoral care committee, and the prayer team, and he also visits patients in a local hospital on behalf of the Chaplain.