Hope For AIDS Crisis - Countries that encourage their citizens to adopt the Bible’s principles of morality
are winning the war against HIV/AIDS.
By Alina Pop
In 1999 I was sent to Kenya, Africa on a mission assignment and spent four months teaching health and Bible. One of my neighbours there attended the lectures. He was deeply concerned about his sister Maria, who was very ill and growing weaker and weaker.
I took a friend to visit Maria. We found her on a tiny bed in much pain from swollen joints. At first, I thought that she had arthritis, so I gave her a massage and other remedies to relieve her pain. Maria had three children by different husbands, and we learned that one of the husbands had died of AIDS. The other had left her and started another family. Her oldest child was sixteen, the middle, seven, and the youngest, five.
Her brother was a great help to her, and her children assisted with cooking and household chores. They were very poor and had little to eat. After a few weeks they moved some distance away from us. Maria grew worse and had to be taken to a hospital. Her children remained at home alone, dependent on their uncle. Within a few days Maria died in the hospital from AIDS, leaving three orphaned children behind.
Sobering Aids Statistics
Maria’s case was not an isolated one. As I became acquainted with the people of Kenya, I learned that it was normal to see children without parents because of AIDS. Yet, Kenyan AIDS statistics are far better than countries such as Botswana, with an HIV incidence of 40% of the adult population.
According to global statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), over 37 million adults and 2.5 million children were living with HIV at the end of 2003.1 Nearly 95% of these sufferers come from developing nations, and a shocking 65% are Africans.2 Sadly, the rate of those newly infected with HIV in most developing countries is increasing. This is largely because of illiteracy and cultural attitudes about taking personal responsibility for infecting others.
A truck driver from South Africa explained to an AIDS researcher how, when far from home, he satisfied his sexual desires with different “businesswomen.” He was thirty-nine years old, married, and had three children.
Even though he knew that his unfaithfulness could eventually infect him and then his wife, he told the reporter: “But madam, sex is natural. Sex is not like beer or smoking. You can stop them. But unless you castrate the men, you can’t stop sex, and then we all die anyway.” 3
It is true that we all will die one day, but how we die is very important. How could you die with any peace, knowing that you had knowingly infected a loved one with a fatal disease?
This fatalistic attitude about sexuality contributes much to the AIDS crisis in Africa and other developing nations. Men are not educated about their responsibility to control their sexual desires for the good of their wives and children. Poverty often lures them to seek jobs long distances from home where loneliness and boredom sets in. Without high cultural or moral restraints against promiscuity, sex for hire or for favours becomes a way of life. Young unmarried girls who become sole providers for children or parents dying of AIDS, reinforce the vicious cycle by selling their bodies to provide food and shelter for them. This is because the easiest job for an uneducated woman in many developing countries is prostitution.
One way to break this vicious cycle is to establish schools or special centres where AIDS orphans can learn a trade to help them earn a living. Christians should be foremost in providing this care, for the Bible reminds us that one important characteristic of pure religion is “to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” James 1:27.
Another way to beat the grim AIDS statistics is to boost small town economic development, thereby keeping more men at home. But by far, the most important factor in eliminating the spread of HIV/AIDS is by educating about abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage.
Uganda—A Success Story
One African country, Uganda, returned to “old fashioned” morals and witnessed significant changes. According to Dr. Edward C. Green, of the Harvard School of Public Health, HIV prevalence rates dropped 70% between 1991 and 2001.”4
The drop in prevalence was not because Ugandans were taught how to use condoms, but because they received serious training about abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage. They were also taught to avoid illegal drugs, alcohol, and bad company.
In his address on family issues and HIV/AIDS, the president of Uganda emphasized the need of focusing on character building for youth. “In a continent ravaged by AIDS due to misinformation, Uganda has a high degree of awareness that AIDS is sexually transmitted and can be avoided. Artists and musicians help spread the facts on AIDS and abstinence, seminars teach parents how to communicate with youth, and True Love Waits, an abstinence-based presentation aimed at teenagers, encourages them to save their lives by saving themselves until marriage.”5
Other countries that have adopted abstinence/fidelity based education are also seeing an encouraging drop in new cases of HIV/AIDS.
The Source of Uganda’s Principles
The plan that Uganda has adopted comes from ancient Bible principles which, when practiced by a society, have insured for millennia that no sexually transmitted disease ever gains a foothold. The aged Solomon, who as a young king had sought illusive happiness with hundreds of women, warned:
“For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword…Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house…Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger; And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof.” Proverbs 5:3-12.
Then he gave important counsel for married men. If followed by any culture, it would ensure the health and happiness of the family:
“Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.…let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.…let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?” Proverbs 5:15-20.
The law of God encourages a high view of sexual morality. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14. But God did not stop with this simple statement. He gave expanded instructions for moral purity that also prohibited fornication, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, and prostitution. Leviticus, Chapter 18.
Jesus’ view of moral purity was even higher:
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew 5:27, 28.
The Apostle Paul encouraged Christian husbands to “love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Ephesians 5:25. Love includes respect, protection, and insuring happiness. It also means denying oneself for the good of others. God gave a sacred responsibility to men toward their wives and children, but ignorance of or indifference to this principle has brought much suffering into the world.
Wherever these principles have been followed, sexually transmitted diseases have been greatly reduced.
Caring for HIV/AIDS sufferers
An individual who admits to having HIV or AIDS experiences many challenges. People with AIDS are considered cursed by God because of their sins. In many cases even the family members ignore and despise the victims. This attitude is not redemptive or Christlike.
In ancient Israel, when someone contracted a contagious disease and the community was in danger, the infected individual was isolated to stop the spread of the disease. “All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.” Leviticus 13:46.
Today, if we learn how to protect ourselves, total isolation is not necessary. Remember, AIDS victims still need support and love. I know families with members affected by AIDS that successfully use careful hygiene and isolation practices in their homes. When Jesus was in this world He concentrated more on healing than preaching. He showed love to those who were suffering from “untouchable” diseases such as leprosy, even if the disease was a result of the sufferer’s disobedience. Here is a lesson for us. We are to care for the sick and do all that can be done to save their lives.
Jesus said, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10. He also promised, “…I am come that they have life, and that they have it more abundantly.” John 10:10. The Bible gives us principles for both ministering to AIDS sufferers and preventing the spread of the disease to others. Serious adoption of these principles in any country would result in a dramatic decrease in suffering from the devastation of HIV/AIDS.
- AIDS Around the World, Avert.org, www.avert.org/aroundworld.htm., statistics for 2003.
- Johanny McGeary, “Death Stalks a Continent,” Time, February 12, 2001.
- ACLU Online Forums- Healthcare Issues-HIV/AIDS, forums4.aclu.org/messageview.
Alina Pop, from Romania, is a Christian Publications Management major at Hartland College in Rapidan, VA. Betsy Mayer, managing editor, also contributed to this story.