International speakers, United Methodist bishops to keynote UM Global AIDS Fund conference

Four United Methodist bishops, an international medical AIDS specialist, seminary professors from Zimbabwe and Kenya, United Methodist pastors, a director of a non-profit addressing health disparities and persons living with HIV will be among featured speakers at an equipping conference for HIV and AIDS ministries set for Sept. 11-13 in Denver.

The conference, “Countdown to Zero: Just Save One,” will emphasize preventing HIV infections and deaths from AIDS. Sponsored by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund (UMGAF) Committee, it builds on the motto of UNAIDS: “Getting to Zero: No new HIV infections, no discrimination, and no new AIDS deaths.” 

“Just as Jesus pointed out in his parables the importance of saving just one sheep, finding one coin or welcoming home one son, so in AIDS ministries we reach out to help persons one by one by one,” the UMGAF Committee said in a statement.

Countdown to Zero will include not only plenary speakers and panelists, but also workshops along four tracks:
•Latina for Life
•Native American Youths and Sexuality
•Annual Conference Training the Trainer
•General Information.

Attendees will hear about UMGAF’s new initiative, Just Save One, which for the next year is focusing on funding projects to eliminate the transmission of HIV from pregnant moms to their newborn babies.

“United Methodists are at a critical tipping point,” said Donald Messer, co-chair of UMGAF, in a June 9 news release. “Are we going to help eliminate AIDS in the world or simply pretend that we can’t do anything to stop children from getting infected and mothers from dying?”

Featured speakers

Bishop Cynthia Harvey of the Louisiana Area will preach the opening service. Three other bishops also will speak, emphasizing the importance of addressing the global AIDS crisis: Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky of the Mountain Sky Area; retired Bishop Ann Brookshire Sherer-Simpson of Lincoln, Neb.; and Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. of the San Francisco Area.

As president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, Brown will also speak on the United Methodist Global Health Initiative and the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. He will be joined by two of the denomination’s general secretaries: Susan Henry-Crowe of the General Board of Church and Society and Thomas Kemper of the General Board of Global Ministries.

Benjamin Young, M.D., chief medical officer for the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care and adjunct professor at the University of Denver School of International Studies, will provide the latest medical information, statistics and research. Two seminary professors, Zimbabwe native Edward P. Antonio of The Iliff School of Theology and Kenya native Anne K. Gatobu of Asbury Theological Seminary, will offer biblical and theological insights. Other keynote speakers include the Revs. Joan Carter-Rimbach of Hyattsville, Md., and Kent Millard of Indianapolis, Ind.

Imani Latif, executive director of It Takes a Village, Aurora, Colo., will chair a panel of persons living with HIV. They will speak about identifying and mitigating stigma and discrimination.

Registration information

To register for the event, visit www.umglobalaidsfund.com. The registration deadline is Aug. 15.

Partial scholarships are available for three of the tracks. For information and deadlines about scholarships, contact Linda Bales Todd, joylab47@yahoo.com. For general questions, email countdown@rmcumc.com.

Countdown to Zero is supported by the United Methodist Connectional Table and various church boards and agencies.