A group of American Christian AIDS educators recently visited Vietnam to help the communist government fight a new invader – the deadly HIV virus that is threatening their population.
The team from the He Intends Victory (HIV), an AIDS ministry based in Irvine, was led by its president, Bruce Sonnenberg. It also included Herb Hall (a former homosexual living with AIDS) and Jennifer Veary (an HIV-positive RN and co-founder of the ministry) and her new husband, Rusty. From January 2-15, they visited Hanoi, Sapa, and Ho Chi Minh City.
While they were in Vietnam giving lectures and talks to medical staff, the team learned that in a country of about 78 million people, there are presently only 60,000 known cases of HIV. Still, by the year 2000 that number is projected to rise to 300,000.
“It was an extraordinary experience to walk into a room where 40 leaders of the National AIDS Committee were gathered to hear us speak and to see a huge banner up on the wall which read, ‘He Intends Victory.’ For here in communist Vietnam, we knew that the ‘He’ was Jesus,” said Sonnenberg, who was making his second visit to the South-East Asian country in two years.
Members of the team made presentations and took questions from the audience. Sonnenberg notes, “Some of them were about our faith and others were surprising like, ‘When should we administer the drug AZT to those who are HIV-positive?’ That is something that has been known in the United States for almost 10 years but to them it is a new drug. There are signs all over Vietnam educating people about AIDS, but for most, it’s just a four letter word.”
He added, “Each time that Herb and Jennifer spoke, they told the audience that the one thing that really gives them the strength needed to make it through each day was their ‘strong faith in God.’ We reminded them to consider the gift of life given to us by God as a gift to be cherished no matter what disease someone has and no matter how they got it.”
Besides their “official” duties, the team also were able to speak at a secret location with 26 pastors of the Underground Church. “We encouraged them to see this horrible disease as a new mission field,” said Sonnenberg, who is also the pastor of the Village Church of Irvin.
– E.P. News