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7/25/97 Care teams provide AIDS ‘friends’ with help, hugs of extended family

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Summey and Ruth Higgins know AIDS can touch any family. And they know what it is like to have a family member die from AIDS. Their son, Mike, died nearly two years ago from the fatal disease.
Because of their personal experience and desire to minister to other families going through the same ordeal, the Higginses have helped lead the effort for their church in Birmingham, Ala., Lakeside Baptist, to develop an AIDS care team.
An AIDS care team is a group of 12 or more people who provide unconditional, compassionate care for people with AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, plus care for their loved ones, Summey Higgins noted. The team becomes an extended family, offering social, emotional, physical and nonproselytizing spiritual support to the HIV/AIDS “friend” and his or her family.
“The actual work of a care team is determined by the needs of the patient and the capabilities and commitment of team members,” Higgins said. Services include friendship, transportation to doctors, meal preparation, shopping, sitting with the patient to give a loved one some needed rest, telephone calls, cards and/or whatever else is needed.
Hugs and affection are much desired by an AIDS patient, Ruth Higgins added. A lot of people are scared of touching a person with AIDS but should not be, she said.
It all comes from ignorance about the disease, Summey said. Some Christians believe the AIDS epidemic is God’s punishment of sinners. But, he recounted, “Mike told us on several occasions that he knew he put himself right where he was, and he also knew that he was paying the supreme price with his life.”
Summey added: “However, Mike was confident in the knowledge that he had confessed his sins and had experienced God’s forgiveness.”
Jesus ministered to everyone and was not scared of any disease, Summey said.
It is that same acceptance that must be made available for AIDS patients, Ruth said. That is why hugs and affection are important, she said. “They know you are not rejecting them.”
Noting one out of every 250 Americans is now affected with HIV, Summey said a growing number of Christians are responding with unconditional love and support to those suffering from AIDS in their communities.
Today, for example, there are 100 AIDS care teams in Alabama with 1,200 volunteers, he said. Many of these teams were formed by churches, he said.
Lakeside’s care team has been in operation since March and has 13 active members. The team’s first “friend” was a young woman just a few blocks from the church. While they developed a close relationship with her immediately, the team had only four weeks to minister to her before she died. They are still close friends with the woman’s mother, Ruth Higgins noted, adding she has attended church with them.
Currently, Lakeside’s care team travels about 20 minutes to Wylam, Ala., to care for a 30-year-old AIDS “friend” who has 10-month-old twin boys and three older children who will be with her during the summer.
She is still active and able to care for her children but needs transportation to the doctor and health department, Ruth said. The team also has provided meals for the family, toiletry items for her, toys and clothes for the babies and repaired beds for the soon-to-be arriving children.
The care team has known their Wylam friend for about two months and searches continuously to provide more help.
“If the Lord can use us and our experience in any way to help someone else, then it was not all in vain,” Ruth reflected.
For more information about care teams dealing with AIDS or other chronic illnesses, contact the Care Team Network at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, (205) 975-9129.

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  • Jennifer Davis Rash