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AIDS booklet focuses on long, lonely journey
Book on God's love offers comfort to all touched by HIV

There's a special kind of grieving when someone receives the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS infection. It's a portent of what could be a long and lonely journey to what is, ultimately, a death sentence.

Nationally, on June 25, Americans will observe the seventh annual AIDS Compassion Day, which focuses on the increasing risk of HIV infection and how people can reach out to those affected by the disease. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an average of one American under the age of 22 becomes infected with the HIV virus every hour. At that rate, numerous American families will soon be touched in some way by AIDS.There's a spiritual side to the issues surrounding AIDS, according to Mike Maus, spokesman for the American Bible Society. That's why the group has published "Nothing Can Separate Us From the Love of God."

Called a "scripture portion," the booklet is being distributed free of charge to offer comfort and understanding to those who are affected by the disease.

"This is the kind of thing we do to try to help people find support in the scriptures," said Maus. "At the back of almost every Bible we print, there's a list of where to go if you're angry or alone or grieving. This special publication was created in that same vein."

The publication deals not with trying to understand AIDS, "which is beyond the scope of what we can do," Maus said, "But is to help people dealing with it themselves or their families -- to have a way of gaining strength in this time."

"ABS recognizes that a countless number of individuals, young and old, will suffer as a result of the spread of AIDS," added the society's Elaine Nole. "These individuals and their families will have to deal with difficult emotions, feelings and fears: anger and outrage, the sense of helplessness, loss and alienation and the fear of abandonment and death."

Biblical passages in the booklet are grouped in chapters that include God's love, how he reaches out to those who are rejected and that hope in God stretches beyond death.

It's presented in a small format that can be easily carried, and the scriptures are in the Today's English Version of the Good News Bible, the society says.

For a copy of the scripture portion, contact the American Bible Society at 1-800-322-4253 (1-800-32BIBLE). Organizations that want multiple free copies can fax their request indicating quantity on official letterhead to the society, 212-408-1554.

The society, which was founded in 1816, distributes more than 64 million Bibles, New Testaments and scripture portions in the United States each year. It hopes, Maus said, to provide scriptures to every individual in a language and form that can be easily understood at a reasonable price.