... And Your Point Is?
By Rev. Andrena Ingram
May 24, 2013
When I am at a gathering of any sort, I usually wear my HIV shirt -- which proclaims "HIV POSITIVE"; especially at religious gatherings. I can only imagine what goes through some folks minds:
Yeah, I know. I might just be wondering the same thing if I was them.
Probably wondering 'what the point' is?
Well, when I entered the ministry, I knew that my HIV status would be an important part of my ministry...an important part of Christ's ministry -- through me. So, I guess you can say, that the point (as I am pointing in my pic) is ME!
The point is: that I have been given the gift of "keeping HIV in front of the church"...through my personal witness, through my personal experience, and through my gracious proclamations, and urgings, nudging and visual aids (the shirt).
I know that there are folks in the church, who would rather turn their heads and look away. Folks in the church who believe that the HIV crisis is over (with all the meds we take, it doesn't seem to be that much of a problem as it was in the beginning). Well, that couldn't be further from the truth!
I met a person at the last church gathering I recently attended, who slowly walked over to me looking directly at my shirt. When he lifted his eyes, he said, "you look familiar", to which I replied, "we have probably met -- which congregation are you with?" He told me. Indeed I had visited his church many years ago, and preached a sermon called: "Hallelujah Anyhow". His memory jarred, he said "yes, that's it"! And then he asked -- pointing to my shirt: "what is that:"? I said: "what?" He pointed to my collar and the shirt and asked: "does your shirt come with that attached?" I replied: "Oh No! It is a "dickie" of sorts...and the shirt? I AM living with HIV", to which he cocked his head to the side in that common 'awwwww' way, filled with pity...and then I engaged him in why it was not necessary to feel that way for me, "I am LIVING with HIV -- not dying from it." The LAST thing I need is pity! It's like I preached at your church..."Hallelujah Anyhow"! And we laughed.
HIV is not a death sentence....that's the point.
I then asked him, if he had been tested, and he began to tell me about being tested for his 'cataracts'...to which I coked my head to the side and responded: "awwwwww"! (as he did to me) He caught it immediately, and he said "Touche "! We laughed again. I then repeated my question: "Have you been tested?"... he said no, but that he certainly would in the near future. I informed him that HIV infection is especially on the rise in our senior citizens.
It is on the rise with our youth, who believe that if you popped a few pills, you'll be okay. Well, there is a lot of other little 'treats' that come along with that. It won't be so cool to take pills the rest of your life...won't be so cool not knowing what the drugs are doing to your insides...not cool going to the doctor and drawing blood the rest of your life. Not cool living with stigma which still exists.
HIV is definitely not cool.
Have you been tested? Do YOU know your status? Get tested. Get educated. Knowledge is power....protect yourself.
....and THAT, my beloved is the point.
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Is the Ribbon Enough?
Rev. Andrena Ingram
Reverend Andrena Ingram (also known as "Pastor Andrena" or "Pastor Ingram") has become a strong advocate for those living in the margins, as she once was. She is an activist in the HIV/AIDS arena, herself living openly and unabashedly with the HIV virus for over 22+ years.
Raised in South Jamaica, New York, Reverend Ingram served seven years of active duty in the U.S. Army. She would later move to the South Bronx, where she attended Transfiguration Lutheran Church with Pastor Heidi Neumark as her pastor and mentor -- empowering her to rise up out of herself and her life challenges, which seemed to her, at the time, insurmountable.
Reverend Ingram is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, with a Master of Divinity. She has been the pastor of St. Michael's Lutheran Church on Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa., for the past four years.
Reverend Ingram can frequently be found speaking about HIV/AIDS, encouraging everyone "to know your status, get tested, and be informed." Silence = Death.
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