I wasn't going to post today but Jeannett left an interesting comment so here I am, posting again. In case you didn't catch it in the comments section of the last post, here it is:
I think a big issue that I struggle with in terms of AIDS in America, is that it is, in fact, a preventable disease. Okay, of course that excludes babies who have no choice and are born with it and the other sorts of things like that...but far and wide, I don't want to say a disease of sinners or that people deserve such a horrendous fate, but I admit it's hard to have a great deal of empathy when you can't help but think that in some ways, if people did quit doing drugs, being sexually promiscuous, the disease as we know it in the United States would phase itself out. Meanwhile, we have a whole laundry list of diseases that are genetic, with no cure (cancer, autism, etc) that are completely void of any kind of behavioral cause/effect. I'm trying to care about it because I think that's what Christ wants of me...but I'll admit it's a little hard to want to focus my efforts on something that is in many ways preventable, when there are so many others out there that maybe aren't nearly as "trendy".
Somehow though, it's much easier for me to have a soft heart towards those in Africa with the disease. Why? I guess because it really is such a pandemic, and the lack of education about it, the very real social stigma you get if you admit to have it (not that there isn't one in the US), and the lack of medical care available makes it such a vicious cycle that it's heartbreaking. And it's much harder to envision an "end" to it.
I think that it's kind of hard to think that with all of the advertising and whatnot we are exposed to here, that anyone would ever say that he didn't know how AIDS was transmitted, etc. In fact, there was even a Law & Order episode about a guy who purposely went around infecting people after knowing he had the virus...and even the poorest of the poor in America has a TV (which is really depressing). There is certainly miseducation about the details of AIDS and how it can be "caught" (as evident in your post) but for the most part, everyone knows some of the basics.
It's an interesting line, and one I've been surprised to see in myself. If I'm open and honest, I will admit outloud that I have a very difficult time wanting to participate in a local AIDS march or donate to the AIDS Center of SLO...but if you ask me to do something that would benefit the cause of AIDS education in Kenya, I'm all for it.
I think this is a very common viewpoint (thanks for being honest and sharing!) I used to wonder/grapple with some of the same things. My perspective has changed a bit over the last year, so I guess I'll share what my thoughts on it are now, and why.
In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 Paul writes about not associating with sexually immoral people--"not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral...In that case you would have to leave this world...What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside."
From this passage I take that it is not my responsibility to worry about what I perceive to be the poor decisions or sins of people in this world we live in. If someone doesn't currently have the hope of Jesus, or if they live a high-risk lifestyle (or take a risk even ONE time), I think Paul would say for us to not concern ourselves with that. In my view, my sin is no different/better/easier to forgive than someone living that lifestyle (do I live in light of that all the time? Absolutely not. But I wish I did--humility is a good thing.) The only difference is that by God's grace and through Christ's sacrifice I can know the hope that is Jesus, His unconditional love and forgiveness for my sin.
SO, if we're not supposed to judge Joe, who happens to be an AIDS patient and is considered "outside the church" in that he is not a believer in Christ, then what SHOULD we be thinking about him? Well, we know from the Bible that we're to love him as ourselves. We know that the greatest commandment is to love God and love others. We know he has a disease and that he is suffering. I think we love him, strive to meet his needs.
There are all sorts of medical conditions we have today that are sometimes the result of unhealthful behavior: heart disease, certain cancers, adult onset diabetes. Yet nothing quite gets people fired up about "making poor choices" like HIV and AIDS. I don't think sexual sin is somehow "worse" in God's eyes than other sins. In fact, when Paul is talking in 1 Corinthians 5 about the "church people" not to associate with, he also lists the "greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler." Yikes!
Personally I would have no qualms participating in an AIDS walk or giving to an AIDS center, in the name of raising money for research or to assist AIDS patients or their families. In the end stages this can be a truly debilitating disease. Those suffering from HIV and AIDS may feel hopeless, depressed, shunned by society because for most of them it means their past decisions are laid bare for everyone to see. I also think it is a pretty cool opportunity for Christians to band together with people of all different backgrounds and to reach out in love.
In addition to all of this, when you look at who AIDS is affecting in the United States, in 2004, 49% of those diagnosed with AIDS were African Americans, even though they only account for 13% of the general population (28% of the diagnoses were for Whites, who comprise 69% of the population.) Studies show that there's an association between higher incidences of AIDS and lower income. And it's said that racial minorities today account for about 75% of all new AIDS cases. Most cases are found in urban areas.
What do the numbers mean? One thing I think they demonstrate is that we must care in general about the human condition--not only about those living with HIV/AIDS, but also about the conditions that lead to poverty, that limit opportunities, and that ultimately contribute to addictions and unhealthy sexual behavior. I think we need to show people that they are valuable and worth something and made in the image of a God who loves them.
Okay, that is quite enough out of me for today, and for the next few days. :) Jeannett thanks for posting. I'm off to have some hot chocolate--yum!