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Healthy Living November Issue
AIDS AND HIV:The Untold Story


Seriousness of AIDS in the U.S.

The number of people in the U.S. inflicted with this dreaded disease is listed in Figure 1: Magnitude of the AIDS Problem in the U.S..2 Only 39 percent of those with AIDS have survived at this writing.3 Most of the deaths are in an age group that is often considered the prime of life.4 AIDS deaths have outpaced even the classic killers of the young like accidents and homicides.5 It is now the eighth leading cause of death across all age groups in the United States.6 Even though it has not reached the yearly death toll of diseases like heart disease, cancer, or stroke, AIDS is still a major killer in America.

Along with all the human suffering caused by AIDS, the disease has taken a heavy financial toll on our nation. Medical costs are shown in Figure 2: Medical Cost of HIV in the U.S..7,8

Worldwide, HIV has caused many difficulties as well.: HIV Worldwide.9, 10, 11

Over 90 percent of those with HIV worldwide live in developing countries. In five African countries, more than 10 percent of the population is infected.



The Growing Role of Heterosexual Transmission

Before 1988, heterosexual transmission accounted for only three percent of all AIDS cases.27 Since 1993, however, the figure has more than tripled. Currently, 11 percent of AIDS cases contracted HIV by heterosexual relations.28 About 13,000 new AIDS cases each year in the U.S. are contracted from heterosexual relations. Most of these cases are women who have been infected by men. Approximately 40 percent of all AIDS cases among women have been associated with heterosexual intimacy.29 The AIDS virus transmits much more easily from an HIV-infected man to a woman than it does from a woman to a man.30

Heterosexual relations account for only six percent of AIDS cases among men. A comparison of the number of new AIDS cases each year in the U.S. caused by homosexual and heterosexual contact in men is shown in Figure 6: New AIDS Cases Occuring Among Homo- and Hetero- Sexual Men.31, 32

Worldwide, when compared with all other means of transmission in both men and women, homosexual contact is the source of a relatively smaller proportion of cases. In statistics published in late 1995, homosexual transmission explained only 45 percent of total worldwide AIDS cases, down from 64 percent earlier.33, 34 However, in the U.S., homosexual transmission remains the major cause of AIDS infection.



How HIV is NOT Spread

It is also essential to recognize how HIV does not appear to spread. There are all kinds of theoretical concerns about routes of transmission over which we have no control. However, worries about these unavoidable contacts are counterproductive when we consider the ways that we know HIV is transmitted. This is not just an academic point. If you focus on all the questions that are not completely answered-and over which you have no control-you are likely to neglect to take the precautions that can virtually ensure that you will not become HIV-infected.

Close personal contact (without the type of exposures already mentioned) has not been shown to transmit the disease. Contact with an HIV-infected person in the household, the work place, the school, the public restroom, or even the hospital is of no consequence.35 The reason for this is that the AIDS virus cannot survive for very long in the normal environment outside of a living creature. The virus is also easily destroyed by common disinfectants. Furthermore, there appears to be no risk of transmission from insects such as mosquitoes.36 If we are going to dramatically decrease the rate of HIV infection in the world, we need to focus on the known risk factors.



Preventing HIV Infection

It is much better not to contract HIV than to attempt to boost the immune system once it is diagnosed. What is the most effective way of ensuring that you never become infected with the AIDS virus?

Note that 97 percent of AIDS patients would not have the disease if it were not for the personal choices that they made regarding sexual activity or drug use. Despite what many seem to want us to think, the answer to the AIDS epidemic has not been nor is it condoms. Condoms are not a reliable barrier against HIV infection. Since condoms sometimes allow pregnancies to occur, they can much more easily pass the AIDS virus as well as other sexually transmitted diseases. The AIDS virus is much smaller than a sperm. So what is the best preventive approach?

Albert Whiting, M. D., made a bold statement that blends practicality and reality in a way that few are willing to echo. God’s Solution to the AIDS Problem.61

Monogamous marriage with a lifetime commitment would certainly help us take a quantum leap toward the solution of the AIDS problem. Who is this physician who expresses such an unpopular assessment? Dr. Whiting is the Health Director for the entire Seventh-day Adventist Church. In that position, he has a unique perspective on world health issues. This is because Seventh-day Adventists are doing organized medical work in nearly 500 church-owned hospitals and clinics throughout the world.62 From his involvement with the worldwide work of this global church, Dr. Whiting has a unique vantage point. AIDS is a global problem, and is much more prevalent in many other countries than in the U.S.

Is it too much to restrict sexual activity to monogamous lifelong marriages between two members of opposite sex? I believe Whiting’s words hold the key to preventing HIV infection. The doctor’s statement, however, is not novel. It is a clear expression of the Bible’s timeless ideals. Beyond that, from a public health standpoint, Dr. Whiting’s words make sense. Because of the importance of this perspective on prevention and its relationship to moral standards, it is warranted to examine carefully the biblical principles that have a bearing on HIV transmission. The principles and the spiritual power to implement them are clearly described in the Scriptures. However, before looking at these timeless biblical insights, we need to expand our focus. The inspired counsel that we will examine has a bearing not only in dealing with AIDS but also on a host of other sexually transmitted illnesses that are taking a tremendous toll.



Worse Than AIDS?

What could be worse than getting AIDS? This Scriptural warning presents the thought that the eternal consequences of the sexual act that caused AIDS is worse than the earthly suffering of having AIDS. Consider this: wouldn’t it be better to suffer and die with AIDS (even at a young age) and have eternal life in the Kingdom of God than to "live prosperously" for 75 or 80 years but not have the privilege of enjoying God’s eternal Kingdom? This is the essence of the meaning of the Scriptural passage. The text spells it out clearly: those who engage in fornication, adultery, and homosexual acts will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Continuing in sexual practices that put us at high risk for AIDS has worse consequences than contracting physical diseases.



Conclusion

Whether you are seeking to avoid HIV infection or deal with an already established infection, I can point you to no more powerful answers than those found in the Bible. In fact, when we think of the sobering realities of AIDS, none of us has any time to waste. Those who are not HIV positive could become infected as the result of just one incident of breaking God’s commandments. Those with the infection may already be moving down the slippery slope of AIDS dementia.

I am convinced that God never wanted the disease of AIDS to ravage humanity. He pointed out a way of living that would have prevented this scourge from ever gaining a foothold. Yet, it is not too late to rediscover the power of God’s commandments and God’s promises. We, as individuals, as a nation, and as a world community can beat the AIDS epidemic. We can beat it whether or not a vaccine or "magic cure drug" is ever developed. I believe we can stop HIV transmission dead in its tracks by returning to the Bible, the Bible’s God, and His inspired rules for living. Not only will HIV transmission be dramatically curtailed, but 40,000 lives will be saved each year in our nation, not to mention the diminishing of untold suffering and financial loss from sexually transmitted diseases.94

Now is indeed the time to take advantage of God’s gracious offer of forgiveness. Now is the time to rely on Him for the power to live a life that is in harmony with His commandments. Such a life will enhance our immune systems, keeps us from high-risk activities, and most importantly, prepare us for an eternity of joy with Him.









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