Why Care About HIV/AIDS?

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of The Christian Post or its editors.

Editor's note: CNN.com today posted a commentary written by Kay Warren which encourages Christians to care about HIV/AIDS. We offer this article as a more in-depth look at Warren’s thoughts about why Christians should care for those with HIV/AIDS.

We’re taught by our parents and our culture to avoid some topics, like politics, religion, and sex. They’re not polite! We don’t want to talk about things like child prostitution, sexual slavery, bonded labor, grinding poverty, dirty water, orphans, widows -- or HIV/AIDS. These are disturbing topics. But we need to be disturbed because, if we’re not disturbed, then we will spend our lives pursuing all the wrong goals, living for the wrong measure of success, and evaluating our legacy by the wrong standard.

When I became disturbed about HIV/AIDS, I had to see it for myself. I traveled to Africa, where the pandemic is decimating millions, one life at a time. Nothing in my life as an American citizen prepared me for what I witnessed. I met Joana, who was dying under a tree after being kicked out of her village. Flora was enduring the pain of living with her husband, his mistress, and their baby; all four of them were HIV positive. I visited the home of three siblings, orphaned due to AIDS; the 15-year-old was caring for his 11-year-old brother and three-year-old sister.

And then I came home to southern California and met Alberto. He is HIV positive and lives in a wheelchair in his backyard because his family is so afraid of his illness; when he needs a bath, his wife attaches a nozzle to a hose and sprays him.

When I think about Alberto, Joana, Flora, and the three siblings in Africa – and 40 million others like them – I am seriously disturbed.

But why should we care about HIV/AIDS? Why not cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes, or heart disease? For a very simple reason: HIV carries a stigma that other diseases don’t carry. No one ever gets banished from her village like Joana did because she’s infected with tuberculosis. No one loses his job simply because of malaria. Husbands don’t beat or divorce their wives for developing the flu, diabetes, or cancer. No relatives refuse to care for children whose parents were killed in an accident. But all of those things and more happen on a daily basis where HIV/AIDS is involved.

Not only does HIV carry stigma and shame, but it is preventable. We can’t prevent many other diseases that plague mankind, but we know how abstinence, monogamy, and condoms can go a long way toward stopping HIV in its tracks.

Because of the fact that HIV is preventable, I can hear you saying, “It’s their own fault then; their own risky behavior led to them being infected. I’m not sure why you’re asking me to care about someone else’s stupid choices.”

I know how you feel because that’s how I felt at one point. The fact, though, is that millions of women receive the disease from unfaithful husbands, millions of babies are born to HIV positive mothers, and millions become HIV positive through tainted blood supplies.

But let’s set aside that fact and address the question that really matters: What would Jesus do in the same situation? We know what he would do. The gospels are full of his responses to illness, death, and suffering. He was moved with compassion and filled with pity. He cried over Jerusalem because its people were so far away from the life he had come to offer them. He touched the untouchables, the call girls, the hated tax collectors, the blind, the crippled, the mentally ill, the outcasts, the marginalized, the despised and rejected ones. The Bible tells us he willingly took on the pain and sorrow that wasn’t his; he chose to bear it.

His response answers all the questions, clears out the confusion, diffuses our arguments, and destroys any ambiguity. He suffered with hurting people without asking them how they got sick, whether or not they had done anything risky or stupid, whether it was “their fault” or if they were the “innocent victim” of someone else’s behavior. He just chose to stand with them, shoulder to shoulder. It is our mission, our call, and our responsibility as his representatives in this world to do what he would do, go where he would go, and love as he would love.

Relief agencies and governments are hard at work attacking this global giant, but it wasn’t to any government or relief agency that Jesus said, “I will build you….and the gates of Hell cannot prevail against you.” Jesus spoke those words to his Church! The Church is the most effective distribution channel of help, assistance, care, support, and compassion, and it has the moral authority to call for lifestyle changes.

In some parts of the world there are no post offices, department stores, or electricity, but there often are churches in those places. And the members of those churches are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to this broken, messed up world. All the relief agencies and governments combined can’t bring an end to this pandemic. They can make a dent, and we need them, but the call is to Jesus’ bride! In the face of a disease that is not curable by any human means, Jesus would care for the sick and expect his followers to do the same.

I invite you to join me in becoming seriously disturbed about something that disturbs the heart of our Father. He is searching for men and women of every age, color, background, and financial status to become seriously disturbed about the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Will you follow Jesus’ example with me and take on others’ pain by fighting against HIV/AIDS and caring for those most affected by it?

www.purposedriven.com/HIVAIDS. Copyright 2006. Used by permission. All rights reserved.