May 15, 2009
In the late 1980s, the Rev. Rudra Dundzila founded the first HIV/AIDS ministry in Madison, Wis., a few years after learning he was HIV-positive. On May 17, Dundzila will be installed as community minister at the Second Unitarian Church in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, where he will coordinate pastoral care services. Living with HIV and working through a period when the pastoral needs of people with HIV/AIDS were acute, he said, allow him to be sensitive to the issues ill people face.
"For me, it's very important to be very public about [having HIV], and break down those barriers and break down those walls of misunderstanding," said Dundzila, "If you think back to the 1960s when cancer was such a dirty word, now we recognize cancer as a disease of the body, and it's transformed the way people think of cancer. HIV/AIDS still carries a lot of stigma, and society is still struggling with how to deal with people who have HIV/AIDS."
The church has about 275 members, about 20 percent of whom are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, said membership coordinator Lisa Todd. Dundzila is a professor of humanities and comparative religion at Truman College, and he has worked with the church in short-term roles since 2001.