Health

HIV: Aids from the Bible

BY WARRICK LATTIBEAUDIERE

Sunday, December 01, 2019

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“There will be pestilences… in one place after another” (Luke 21:11).

FEW diseases wreak the combined mental and physical havoc on humans as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has. “The Big A”, as some know it, and the most devastating stages of the HIV virus, AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) changes people's lives forever.

Purported to have started as a zoonosis from primates, the virus became adept at transmission through sexual activity, intravenous drug use, as well as from mother to child.

Some people present with symptoms of fever, headache, sore muscles and joints, stomach ache, swollen lymph glands, or a skin rash for one or two weeks, generally causing many people to think it's the flu. Worse, some have no symptoms at all.

HIV, with its long, infectious, but hard-to-detect period of incubation, now spirals out of control.

Current diagnosis

Last year's global HIV statistics, according to The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) 2019 report, had an estimated 37.9 million people living with HIV, of which 1.7 million are children, and 21 per cent of infected people unaware that they have the virus. The report reveals that since the outbreak of the epidemic, around 74.9 million people have contracted HIV, with 32 million dead from AIDS-related illnesses. In 2018 alone, 770,000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses.

How does this translate, locally? Well, as of 2018, roughly 32,000 people are believed to have the virus, with some 5,300 unaware of their positive HIV status in Jamaica. Just last year, 1,600 people were newly HIV-infected.

Current prognosis

In the United States, for example, the infection rate has remained steady, which is the case for many countries. This is not good, and, at this rate, these regions may not meet their target for 2020.

Adopted locally, the 90-90-90 target — the Holy Grail on HIV treatment — speaks to a charge to have 90 per cent of all people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90 per cent of all people diagnosed with HIV infection given sustained anti-retroviral therapy, and virally suppressing 90 per cent of all people receiving anti-retroviral therapy — all by 2020. The reason suggested by the Associated Press in the US and applicable locally and to many other regions as to the steady walk of the virus, is that “Many people are not heeding warnings about prevention.”

We have seen the diagnosis and the prognosis. They speak for themselves. “Whoso readeth”, as the words of Matthew 24:15 cautions, “let him understand”.

In the same passage, and as a part of a composite sign Jesus gave to his disciples marking a period to be known as the last days, mention is made of “pestilences in one place after another” — a pestilence being a disease that spreads rapidly.

The Bible prophecy, incontrovertibly, is having its fulfilment, notwithstanding an era of greatest scientific progress.

Prevention is really the only cure

While science must be lauded for its breakthrough in antiretroviral drugs, science cannot remove the stigma attached to the virus and the marginalisation faced by known carriers. How wise we are to heed the advice at Proverbs 22:3 and be the shrewd one who sees the danger and proceeds to conceal himself.

While health agencies have advised the use of condom in sexual activities, many still fail to heed this advice, failing to realise that HIV is not written on the face of those infected. People should actively seek prevention rather than cure. Why?

Say a new, inexpensive drug were developed that would actually cure the disease. Would such a drug be readily accessible to all in need? Probably not, for annually, according to the United Nations Children's Fund, about four million children perish from five diseases that can be prevented by inexpensive, existing vaccines.

Nothing beats prevention. Two options are present for most diseases: Preventing them or curing them. With HIV, there is no such choice. It can be prevented, but, at present, cannot be cured. Why take such a risk to endanger your life? Prevention must be better than no cure.

Change your lifestyle

Our society, which trends well with the world, celebrates sexual freedom. Few would deny the link between this liberation and the rapid spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Our dancehall culture of an “ole dog like me, wi av de gyal dem inna twos an threes”, rubber stamps sexual promiscuity, clearly out of line with the original one-man-one-woman narrative of scripture.

People must take responsibility for their lives and their sexuality, and you who believe barebacking kills sexual pleasure, barebacking sexual pleasure could lead to death.

Over and above all these is the fact that people ought to personally conduct themselves honestly in all things (Hebrews 13: 18). Dishonesty is rife in relationships, and even in these, people must take precautions.

Respect, too, is lacking, for if a man truly values a woman he should do the proper thing and marry her, and each party should “let his yes be yes and his no, no; [for] anything beyond this is from the wicked one” (Mat 5:37).

Sexual infidelity comes with a heavy price, at times an HIV price. How much more valuable is the admonition at 1 Thes 4:3-4: “For it is God's will that you should be holy; you must abstain from sexual immorality; each of you must know how to control his own body in a way that is holy and honourable”, or alternatively rendered: “Each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honour, not in covetous sexual appetite.”

Indeed, which well-thinking human is it who would disagree that HIV and AIDS would be drastically reduced if the Bible's advice on lifestyle were to be adhered to?

As the world commemorates World AIDS Day today, let us remember Ruth Mota, of International Health Programs in Santa Cruz, California, who says: “Healing is much broader than putting chemicals in your body. It involves attitude, social support, spirituality, and nutrition.”

Is an AIDS-free world possible? Yes, it is. It lies in a hope the Our Father prayer (Paternoster) gives, that we beg for God's will be done on Earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9, 10). God, being the only one that is supremely good, does not want humans forever plagued by illness. He will answer that prayer and bring an end not only to AIDS, but to all other diseases that plague humankind. Then, and only then, “no resident will say: 'I am sick'.”—Isaiah 33:24.

Warrick Lattibeaudiere (PhD), a minister of religion for the past 22 years, lectures full-time in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Jamaica.


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