Of course, many cases are not reported. WHO expects a further 10–15 million cases of HIV infection during the rest of the 1990s. Many will be children and most cases will be in developing countries. Today in some cities in Eastern and Southern Africa one third of young adults are HIV infected. A devastating spread of HIV infection is expected throughout Asia. AIDS will develop following HIV infection, though this may take many years. This diagram from WHO shows the predicted rise in AIDS cases until the year 2000. There is concern that the effect of AIDS may become so devastating that population growth will actually fall in some countries.
These figures give some idea of what we as Christians have to respond to. The people who are dying from AIDS are mainly young adults in their 20s and 30s. Often these are well trained people – sometimes educated overseas at great expense by our governments. They are the people our countries depend on most. Who will build our countries? Will our economies collapse? Who will look after all the orphans?
Most people in our area know about AIDS now, but very few are prepared to change their behaviour. Our health workers are carrying out a survey to find out what people really understand. The results should help us in our teaching.
The people we work with in Boga often have little or no education. Our messages about AIDS must be simple and easy to understand. We find it helpful to use drama or pictures that show the body’s immune system – which fights off diseases for us – as a separate person. This person can fight off most diseases even though some may make us ill for a while. But AIDS is very strong. It can even destroy the immune system. Then our bodies can catch all kinds of diseases and we become very sick and die.
Illustration - The immune system fights off a cough while our body remains well.
How should Christians respond?
The churches have a big role to play in education. The Bible teaches that marriage should be for life and that men and women must be faithful within their marriages. It also teaches that sex is to be used only within marriage. Now, more than ever, the world needs this message. The church should lead in education about AIDS. We can help AIDS sufferers with many problems. We should give them the hope and encouragement they need to continue. Many people want to prepare for death and are eager to learn about eternal life.
I urge you to learn from others. Don’t wait until you see people dying in your community before you take action. Speak out now! Many people still think AIDS is a dream – that it doesn’t really effect our country or our community. Be prepared!
Here are some helpful questions for discussion – in your church, in your community, in your work situations…
- What can the church do in AIDS education?
- What cultural customs do we have that may be encouraging the spread of AIDS?
- How would you help the young women in your communities?
- What can you do to encourage the right kind of sex education in your home, church and school?
- How will our community look after the orphans?
- Why do so many young women get AIDS?
- How will our community care for the sick?
- What practical steps can we take to show people with AIDS that we care about them?
Nyangoma Kabarole is Director for Medical Services in Boga, Zaire.
EDUCATE YOUR COMMUNITY
HIV is the virus which causes AIDS. HIV infection nearly always means that eventually, often after many years, AIDS will develop.
YOU CANNOT CATCH HIV FROM:
- Sharing food
- Touching and hugging
- Toilet seats
- Swimming pools
- Donating blood
- Communion cup
- Sharing clothes
YOU CAN ONLY CATCH HIV FROM:
- Sexual intercourse with an infected person
- Infected blood
- Needles which are used many times without being sterilised
An infected mother may pass HIV to her newborn baby
USING CONDOMS DURING SEX GREATLY REDUCES THE RISK OF PASSING ON HIV.