ďIt is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.Ē Matthew
Daniel has a wife and three young children. Daniel often
travels far from home in connection with his job and spends nights
in different cities. Sometimes when heís away, Daniel goes to
prostitutes or other available women. Then Daniel starts having
health problems. Something is wrong. He goes to a doctor. A blood
test shows that Daniel has HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Daniel
isnít sure which woman gave him HIV, and he has no idea how many
other women he himself has infected.
Daniel doesnít want anyone to know about his HIV problemónot
his employer, not his wife, not his children, not his friends, not
anybody. Itís too shameful to tell anyone. So he keeps going to
bed with his wife, and he doesnít change anything or mention a
condom. If he did that, his wife would become suspicious and
wonder whatís wrong.
Awhile later, Danielís wife, Rebekah, suspects something, and
she wonders whether she herself might have HIV. But she doesnít
want to get a blood test. It would be embarrassing to ask for the
test, and if she is infected, she doesnít want anyone else to find
out. Meanwhile, her youngest child is still nursing, and Rebekah
doesnít know if her baby could get HIV by breastfeeding. She has
never heard of a drug that helps protect breastfeeding babies from
HIV, and she doesnít dare to give her child a nutritional
substitute for breast milk. In her village all infants are
breastfed by their mothers, so any mother who stopped nursing and
used a milk substitute might as well carry a sign: ďSomething is
wrong with me.Ē People would avoid her for fear of getting what
sheís got, and Rebekah canít stand the thought of being despised
and isolated. So Rebekah doesnít get tested, and she keeps nursing
A few months later, she becomes pregnant with a new baby.
Daniel and Rebekah donít talk about whether their unborn baby
might turn out to have HIV, and they donít discuss it with anyone
else. They donít ask whether anything can be done to make it less
likely that the unborn baby will get HIV. Daniel and Rebekah just
go on with life as usual.
Not long after the baby is born, Daniel gets so sick that
thereís no way to pretend everything is fine. Other people find
out about his illness. Even then, however, nobody among his
friends and relatives actually says much about AIDS. They just
avoid Daniel. He canít afford the drugs that sometimes help
HIV/AIDS victims to live longer. Eventually Daniel dies, leaving
his wife and children without an income.
A few kind people try to help them out, but most people avoid
them. Rebekah and her children donít have enough to eat. They get
a little food that keeps them alive, but they are undernourished
and weakened. Then Rebekahís HIV becomes full-blown AIDS. Without
proper nutrition or access to any drugs, she soon dies, leaving
behind four young orphans. The two youngest are HIV positive and
are doomed to die in childhood. One got the virus nursing, the
other got it while still an unborn baby inside her infected
The Need For Truth
The story Iíve just told is constructed from events that are
happening to many different people. AIDS is a deadly killer that
strikes down men and women, youth and little children. In the
battle against AIDS, one of the most important weapons is truth.
We must tell the truth about AIDS. The deadly power of AIDS would
vanish if everyone knew the truth, lived by the truth, and told
each other the truth.
In the story you just heard, if Daniel had lived by Godís truth
that sex is a beautiful gift to be enjoyed only in marriage, he
never would have caught the disease. Even after he caught the
disease, if he had simply told the truth to his wife, Rebekah, and
had changed their sex life to protect her, the rest of his family
would have been spared. After Rebekah caught the disease, if she
had sought the truth about her condition and had known the truth
that HIV can sometimes be transmitted by breastfeeding and had not
kept nursing her baby to hide the truth about her illness from
others, she could have protected her nursing child by getting
If people in their village had known the truth that HIV/AIDS
cannot spread simply by being near someone, and if they had heeded
Godís truth about loving the sick and needy, the family would not
have been shunned, and people would not be so tempted to hide the
truth about having AIDS. If Daniel and Rebekah had known and acted
upon the truth that thirty percent of babies born to women with
HIV get the disease inside the womb, they could have refrained
from having more children.
After the damage is done, though, itís not enough to be
reminded of truths we should have heeded. Itís not enough to talk
about ďifĒ or ďshould have.Ē We may need to face painful truths
about our own sins and mistakes, but above all we need to know if
thereís any hope in the face of illness and death. As we look at
the truth about AIDS, weíll see a number of important things, but
the most important truth is that God gives his love and life to
people in even the most dreadful situations, if only they trust in
Jesus. Itís possible to face even something as horrible as AIDS
with hope, not despair, when you turn to Jesus.
The chief weapon in the fight against AIDS is the truth. When
truth is lacking people die. When truth is made known, believed,
and acted upon, people live.
One important truth about AIDS is that it is a vast and
terrible epidemic. At first its awful impact was concentrated on a
particular minority of the population: homosexual males. In the
early 1980s, when doctors began noticing a strange new disease,
they called it GRID, Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, because most
people with the disease were homosexual men. Then it was found
that drug users caught the disease by sharing needles with each
other. There were also a few people who got AIDS through tainted
blood transfusions in the time before blood was screened for HIV.
But in the early days of AIDS, people who werenít homosexual men
or drug users were fairly safe for the most part. That has
Homosexual men are still the highest risk group, but the
infection rate among heterosexuals is growing, and many women and
children are becoming infected. The three main ways to get AIDS
are sexual activity, drug use, and parent to child transmission.
You donít get AIDS if somebody sneezes nearby or if you drink from
the same glass, because the virus doesnít live in saliva. You
donít get AIDS by touching or shaking hands or kissing or using a
toilet that was used by an infected person. You donít get AIDS if
a mosquito bites an infected person and then bites you, because
even though blood carries the virus, HIV dies inside the mosquito.
There are many things that wonít give you AIDS at all, and we
shouldnít have needless fears. But some things are known to
transmit AIDS, and we must be alert to them. Unborn children and
nursing babies can get it from infected mothers. If youíre a youth
or adult, you can get HIV/AIDS by sharing a needle with an
infected person or by sexual activity with an infected person.
Dr. Richard van Houten has compiled some scary statistics. As
recently as 1995, only 8 percent of new infections in Canada were
women. Now 24 percent of newly infected Canadians are women--a big
change in a short time! (This doesnít mean 24 percent of all
Canadian women are infected; it means that of every four newly
infected people, roughly three are men and one is a woman.) Itís
no longer safe for women to assume that AIDS afflicts only gay men
and not women. Despite the growing peril, despite the fact that
sex outside marriage is the most common means of transmitting the
virus, a majority of unmarried Canadian women say they have had
The AIDS plague is especially terrible in Africa. In 1990 South
Africa had an infection rate less than 1 percent; now the rate
among pregnant women is estimated at 25 percent. Think of it--one
out of every four pregnant women, infected with AIDS. Mother to
child transmission of HIV is estimated at about 30 percent, which
would mean that about one of every eleven babies being born in
South Africa will die of AIDS in childhood. Of the other 10
babies, two would lose their mothers to AIDS.
Other African countries are also gripped by the epidemic. In
Zimbabwe 70 percent of deaths among children under age 5 are due
to AIDS. In Botswana, if infection rates donít decrease, almost 90
percent of all who are now 15 years old will die of AIDS before
they turn fifty. Life expectancy is below 40 years, and may drop
below 30 years by 2010. Life expectancy is similarly low in
Mozambique, Malawi, and Swaziland.
AIDS has not yet reached that level in Nigeria, which has the
largest population in Africa. But that is small comfort. The
Nigerian problem is bad and getting worse. In the year 2000, the
infection rate surpassed 5 percent.
In Africa the plague is now spreading fastest among young
people age 15 to 24, and women catch the infection most easily.
Itís estimated that of young people age 15-24 worldwide who have
AIDS, 60 percent are women. Over 40 million people worldwide are
now infected, and another 22 million have already died. Each day
1,800 babies are born infected with AIDS. Each month 42,000
children die of AIDS.
This is a terrible tragedy for individuals, families, and
friends. It is also deadly for countries and their social systems.
When young people just entering the prime of life are dying by the
millions, the economic damage is severe. Just at the point when
people are trained and ready to become productive, theyíre gone.
In Zambia the number of school teachers dying of AIDS is equal to
about half the number of all new teachers being trained each year.
AIDS can ravage education systems and economic systems and make
entire political systems less stable than ever. Some nations that
once worried about population growth are now worried about not
having enough people to do the work and pay the taxes. Meanwhile,
political decisions related to AIDS can upset people with
different opinions and make the political system less stable.
Killer and Liar
All this horror is the work of a vicious murderer who doesnít
want us to know the truth about AIDS. The disease itself can be
called a murderer, but the chief murderer is Satan, the prince of
darkness and death. How does Satan multiply death? Through lies.
As Jesus put it, Satan ďwas a murderer from the beginning, not
holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies
he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of
liesĒ (John 8:44). Satan loves lies and delights in death. He lied
to our first parents, Adam and Eve, in order to bring death to the
human race. And today he still uses lies to spread death. This is
certainly true of AIDS: it is a killer that is most deadly when
truth is unknown or ignored.
Satanís lies are horrible, and he uses different lies on
different people in different places. He often uses the lie that
having sex with anyone you wish is the way to happiness. The truth
is otherwise: people are far happier when they refrain from sex as
singles and are faithful to their spouse when they are married.
God says that sex is for marriage and marriage is for life. The
Lord calls us to abstain from sex outside marriage for our own
good. Satan the liar comes along and says, ďYouíre not made in
Godís image. Youíre nothing but an animal. And animals have urges.
So follow your urges. You canít help it.Ē But the Bible says that
God wonít let you be tempted beyond what you can bear but will
provide a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). Who should we believe,
Satan the liar, or God who cannot lie? You can live as God
commands if you ask God for the strength to do so.
Many officials want to battle the AIDS epidemic by passing out
condoms to almost everybody and giving free needles to drug users.
Such measures may help reduce the risk of AIDS for people with
sinful lifestyles, and I hope some lives are spared. But Iím
afraid the overall effect may be to spread Satanís lie. The condom
and the needle proclaim, ďYou people are just animals. You canít
be expected to do anything right, so donít even try. Hereís a way
to improve your chances of survival while doing wrong.Ē God offers
much more. He calls you to a higher, better way of life. God says
you can be different, and he gives you the power to change.
Condoms may provide some protection if they are used right and
donít break, but wouldnít it be better to treat sex as a lovely
gift from God and to see ourselves and each other as image-bearers
Lies are Satanís specialty. In some parts of the world, Satan
spreads the lie that not having sex can make you crazy, because it
is a natural drive that must be released. The truth is that people
who control their desires are some of the sanest, most sensible
In some places, people are fooled into thinking that if you
donít have sex before marriage, it may stunt your ability to
produce children later on. The truth is the exact opposite: sex
with various partners before marriage can give you diseases that
make you sterile and unable to have children.
An especially deadly lie in some areas is that if you have
AIDS, you can get rid of it by having sex with a virgin. The truth
is that doing such a wicked thing cures nobody but only infects
another person and sentences her to death.
Another lie of Satan is that drugs can cure your problems and
make you feel good. The truth is that drugs cause all sorts of
problems and make you feel worse in the long runóand if you share
needles in doing drugs, you can get AIDS and die.
Still another lie that Satan uses in certain cultures is that
AIDS can infect you by someone elseís witchcraft. But thatís a
lie. When Satan wants to spread AIDS, he doesnít look for a witch
doctor or a shaman or a mighty curse. He looks for ways to get
people to make choices that go against Godís design. AIDS is not
spread by hexes but through certain bodily fluids, mainly blood
Satan uses lies to infect people with AIDS, and once they get
infected, he uses lies to keep them from the truth. Many who are
infected donít even know it. In the United States the federal
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently conducted a
major study of gay and bisexual men. Among the findings, it turned
out that 77 percent of infected men were not aware of their HIV
status. They had not been tested recentlyósome had never been
testedóand they didnít see themselves as high-risk. They did not
know the truth about their condition.
Other people, even after blood testing shows infection, simply
wonít believe it. They still feel healthy most of the time and can
go about normal activities for years. They take no measures to
preserve their own health as much as possible, and they take no
precautions to protect others.
Others may face the fact that they are infected, and they may
take all the right medical steps and behave toward others in the
most responsible way, but even then, Satanís arsenal of lies has
another weapon of deception. If you get HIV/AIDS, Satan may
whisper, ďYouíre a stinking sinner, and thatís all you are. Now
youíre getting what you deserve. Youíre beyond hope. God hates
you. Other people will hate you if they find out. You might as
well hate yourself. Thereís no way out of this. Death is coming.
Thereís no way to avoid dying, and there is no hope for you after
death. Youíre doomed to a future without love, without peace,
without happiness.Ē The name Satan means ďaccuser,Ē and
accusations are some of his deadliest lies.
Not everything Satan says is a complete lie, of course. He has
to use just enough of the truth to make his lies convincing. Itís
true that you and I are sinners, and itís true that sin deserves
death. But itís not true that youíre nothing but a sinner. You are
also a precious person created in Godís image. Itís true that each
of us offends God by our sin, but itís not true that God hates you
or that you can never be loved again. Jesus has loved and
transformed thieves, prostitutes, and killers, so why canít he
love you and me? Itís true that AIDS is a horrible disease and
that if youíre infected, there are tough times ahead. But itís not
true that you have no possibility of a happy future. You can have
the brightest future imaginable if you trust in Jesus Christ and
have eternal life through him. Satan sprinkles his lies with a bit
of truth here and there, but Jesus Christ is the truth
(John 14:6), and Jesus says, ďWhoever comes to me, I will never
drive awayĒ (John 6:37).
Healer and Friend
If youíre sick with sin and sick with AIDS, youíre exactly the
kind of person Jesus came to save. When Jesus was at a party
befriending sinners despised by others, he said, ďIt is not the
healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call
the righteous, but sinnersĒ (Mark 2:17). So if youíre guilty of
sin and are terribly sick, donít despair. Instead, be glad that
Jesus wants to be your friend and help you.
Jesusí enemies labeled him ďa friend Ö of sinnersĒ (Luke 7:34).
They meant it as an insult, but for all of us who know ourselves
to be sinners, itís wonderful to know that Jesus is the friend of
sinners. For all who are sick, itís good news to hear the truth
that Jesus came to heal the sick, not to hang around with people
proud of their healthy bodies and healthy souls. The ultimate
truth about AIDS, then, is that this is the very kind of thing
that Jesus came to deal with. Jesus is the ultimate healer and
The Bible says, ďThe reason the Son of God appeared was to
destroy the devilís workĒ (1 John 3:8). Sin is the devilís work.
Death is the devilís work. AIDS is the devilís work. But Jesus
appeared to destroy the devilís work. The lies of Satan cannot
defeat the truth of Jesus. The sins prompted by Satan cannot
surpass the grace of Jesus. The fear and hatred that come from
Satan cannot cancel the love of Jesus. The sickness and death
spread by Satan cannot stop the resurrection power of Jesus.
If the world chooses to face the AIDS plague without God and
without Christ, the problem will get worse. Those who are not
children of God through faith in Jesus are part of a realm run by
Satan. As the Bible puts it, ďThe whole world is under the control
of the evil oneĒ (1 John 5:19). Worldly powers cannot free
themselves from Satanís grip or refute his lies or defeat death.
The world as a whole canít shake itself loose from Satan, and you
and I as individuals canít deal with Satan on our own. We cannot
outthink Satan or overpower him. But if we trust in the Lord and
in his mighty power and fight with his weapons, we shall know the
truth, and the truth shall set us free.
The truth is that Jesus suffered and poured out his blood on
the cross in order to pay for our guilt and set us free from our
shame. He rose from the dead to give eternal life and joy to dying
people. So it would be in the spirit of antichrist to hammer AIDS
victims with guilt and shame without proclaiming the saving love
of Jesus Christ. It would also be the worst kind of folly for
people with AIDS to reject Jesus loveí and to enter eternity
without him. Itís not just a question of health or sickness, life
or death. Itís a question of heaven or hell.
Whether or not we have AIDS, all of us will die of something at
some point, and then we must enter eternity. The God of love calls
you to share eternity with him. But if you donít want the Lord
Jesus in this life, you will not have him in the life to come. The
only alternative to eternal joy with Christ is unending hell
without him. So I appeal to you with my whole heart, and I tell
you on the authority of the living God: Turn away from sin, and
turn to Jesus. Accept his love. Trust his promises. Obey his
commands. Ask him to wash you clean by his blood, and to give you
fresh power by his Holy Spirit. Follow the Lord on the path of
life. Look forward to enjoying Godís friendship and pleasures in
his new creation. Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be
For further study:
Richard van Houten, ďHIV/AIDS: An OverviewĒ http://www.gospelcom.net/rec/Focus2-1overview.html
Eugene Rubingh, ďTheological and Ethical Reflections on
HIV/AIDS in Africa,Ē http://www.gospelcom.net/rec/Focus2-1rubingh.html
Both articles listed here are in REC Focus, March, 2002.
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