Ending the HIV Epidemic: Faith and HIV – Buddhist Perspective

Four decades.

OVER four decades of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. 

Over four decades and still we combat the detrimental lack of sexual health education in many parts of the world, and specifically in the Southern US where I live.

Four decades of witnessing the harrowing, disproportionate impact on the lives of Black and Brown people, and our families and loved ones.

AND four decades of continuous oppressive stigma that feeds the lack of affirming medical care and builds barriers to evidence based prevention methods as well as the basic tools WE KNOW will truly end this pandemic: stable housing, meaningful employment with a living wage, and increasing affirming emotional wellness and healing.

Over four decades of this pandemic.

Yet, in these more than four decades, we have learned, we have grown, and most wonderfully, we still have hope, hope that is grounded in faith.  In my faith practice, Nichiren Buddhism, we hold the value that with all the despair, hurt, and pain these four decades have caused, WE still have the ability to change the “poison of despair into medicine.”

The essence of Buddhism is the conviction that we each have within us the ability to overcome any problem or difficulty that we may encounter in life. This inherent potential is what we refer to as the Buddha Nature -- a state of life characterized by limitless courage, wisdom, and compassion. The founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni, or Siddhartha as he is sometimes known, expressed this law in the Lotus Sutra, where he revealed that ALL people WITHOUT exception, possess this Buddha nature and are inherently worthy of respect. 

For me, the blessing/benefit – YES, BLESSING/BENEFIT -- of these over four decades is the rise of faith communities who provide better support for people living with HIV. Faith communities that support comprehensive sexual health education; faith communities that even provide linkage to treatment and care; and yes, faith communities that take action to eliminate stigma around HIV. Each one of us can become aware of our Buddha Nature and form or join faith communities -- to change poison into medicine!

“Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo” : Never Give Up.