Theological Aspects of HIV and AIDS in the Context of Human Sexuality, Use of Condoms and Prevention: An Ethical Reflection – A Prolegomenon
26 January 2009
Dr M L Ngoetjana
Introduction: Please let us theologise. Somehow, Christian theology that is worth the label must refer to Biblical texts. Otherwise we confine systematic theology to mere philosophizing and reduction of faith is disregard of the Bible. We need to be encouraged that there is a backing from other human disciplines which testify to the unfathomable wisdom and foreknowledge sincerely found in Christian scriptures. This means that theology is not a lone voice of irrational people who believe without reason and scientific evidence as our world requires today. This rudimentary paper attempts to sincerely support the scriptures on health which have been scientifically authenticated.
Executive Summary: The challenge of HIV and AIDS, in inference is related to the texts of disease and healing in the scriptures. HIV and AIDS is not the virus nor the syndrome found in the scriptures. HIV and AIDS is our modern challenge. We can only relate the virus and the syndrome in inference to the scriptures. But the principles of health and healing found in the scriptures hold and are relevant to both our contextual theologisation and evidential findings of empirical scientific inquiry. In summary, clean living, clean behaviour, clean environment, clean water, clean food, clean sex, clean relationships, clean hands, clean clothes an clean habits are an answer to the combat of HIV and AIDS.
Ancient Cultures, Prevention, Sex and Medicine
”Most ancient cultures had extensive lists of medicines and procedures for treating disease. The health laws that God gave to Moses, however, did not focus on treating disease, but instead focused on preventing disease and promoting health! This is why medical historian Ralph Major describes Moses as “the greatest sanitary engineer that the world has ever seen” because “Moses recognized the great principle that the prevention of disease is usually simpler and invariably more far reaching than the cure of disease… His doctrines [in the book of Leviticus] could be summed up by the objects of sanitation today—pure food, pure water, pure air, pure bodies and pure dwellings” (A History of Medicine, vol. 1, pp. 62–64)”.
“The biblical health laws are timeless! They were valid in the days of Moses, and they are just as valid—and applicable—today. The Bible reveals that when Jesus Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God on this earth, the laws of God will be proclaimed to the world from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2–4). As human beings around the globe learn to live by these simple yet fundamentally important laws, their health will improve—and the plague of disease will begin to disappear (Isaiah 35:5–7). This is part of the gospel! You can play a vital role in this incredible transformation (Isaiah 30:20–21)—if you learn the value of applying these biblical health laws in your own life today!”
Faced with HIV and AIDS is another challenge than communicable diseases of the Biblical times. The virus is sophisticated, complex, dynamic, ever changing, myriad, regional, perplexing, changing, and smart. The virus uses the very body defenses, emulates it, copies it and unfortunately works against it. The challenge confronts us with incisive ethical dilemmas. Should like it was in Biblical times confine people living with HIV and AIDS in seclude and separate places? Did not the seclusion of people living with dreaded Biblical diseases help contain the incurable diseases of the Biblical times. If we were to apply the Bible literally, we should be having seclusion areas for people living with HIV and AIDS. Will that be ethically acceptable?
Granted, it is convincing that laws of quarantine – of keeping people locked in separate camps, like those with Extreme Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR), should not be imposed on people living with HIV and AIDS, but why?
Laws of Quarantine/ Keeping People Secluded
“[Besides and including Biblical times a] plague which prevailed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in Europe was leprosy. England, Sweden, Iceland and Norway showed alarming gains in the numbers of leprosy cases in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. But when the authorities began to institute the quarantine, in the form of segregation of leprosy cases, the plague was again brought under control.
In Norway rigid national quarantine was introduced in 1856 because of the widespread severity of leprosy. “Ninety years later the health authorities were able to report that Norway had only five percent of the number of lepers that were there before segregation. Similarly favorable reports come to us from Finland and Sweden, where enforced segregation of lepers had also been instituted,” writes D.T. Atkinson (Magic, Myth and Medicine, p. 64)”.
Shall we propose the same seclusion legislation for the prevention of the virus and the syndrome? Where did these quarantine laws come from? This same author tells us, “It is most singular that a description of leprosy, as found in the thirteenth chapter of Leviticus, could have been written so long before our time. It is to be noticed that such an accurate description of this dread malady as it appears in the Biblical narrative is not to be found in the literature of any nation for the next seventeen hundred years” (ibid; p. 25-26).
Astounding, amazing, astonishing, and confounding the case is. Why should it be, since
the Bible was divinely inspired by God who created mankind and knows and has prescribed how to deal with incurable diseases? Why can’t we simply follow what God has approved? For instance, the solution for leprosy was to seclude the infected? Why can’t seclude the HIV and AIDS infected? Why do we do it with XTB and not with HIV infected people? Is it because we are now living in a culture of relativism, human rights, democracy, and freedom? Is it because issues depend on how you look at them, that humans must not be confined or secluded, and that the majority determines the will of the people?
Isn’t it that the majority say people living with HIV must live among us, and they must not be secluded. Is it not argued that it is unethical to discriminate against people infected with HIV. So what about those who are affected by HIV and AIDS? Must we seclude them. So, let it be. We must all, each one of us be secluded. Ultimately not a single one of us must move. Impossible!
Speaking of the Biblical laws regarding leprosy, Atkinson states: “The laws of health laid down in Leviticus are the BASIS OF MODERN SANITARY SCIENCE. Moses ordered that cases of leprosy should be segregated, that dwellings from which infected Jews had gone should be inspected before again being occupied, and that persons recovering from contagious disease were not to be allowed to go abroad until examined. The modern quarantine harks back to these sanitary regulations of the Old Testament” (p. 58).
Similarly, Arturo Castiglioni in A History of Medicine tells us, “The laws against leprosy in Leviticus 13 may be regarded as the first model of a sanitary legislation” (p. 71)” (Dankenbring, 1972 ). In simple terms, let all of us without secluding other, live positively in the context of HIV and AIDS. Let all of us know our status and live positively in the world of HIV and AIDS.
The Bible Versus Venereal Disease
“The fastest spreading contagious disease in the Western world today is venereal disease. In the United States, someone contracts venereal disease every 12 seconds! Dr. Geoffrey Simmons of the Los Angeles County Health Department predict[ed] that by 1975 the present two million annual cases of V.D. in the United States will rise to five million. But why? What is the cause?
Medical authorities frankly admit that V.D. is spread through sexual contact. Homosexuals account for nearly one fifth of the reported cases! As long as there is promiscuity, free sex, and homosexuality, there is bound to be venereal disease”.
“But the solution to this terrible worldwide curse is as simple as it is ancient: “Shun immorality! Any other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (I Cor. 6:18, Moffatt translation).
What does the Bible say will happen to those who devote themselves to sexual vice, who dishonour their own bodies? God says: “… their women have exchanged the natural function of sex for what is unnatural, and in the same way the males have abandoned the natural use of women and flamed out in lust for one another, men perpetrating shameless acts with their own sex and getting in their own persons the due recompense of their perversity” (Rom. 1:26-27, Moffatt).
The growing incidence of this ancient plague speaks eloquently that the solution is prevention! Thousands of years ago the Biblical standards of morality safeguarded against this plague which blights the lives of as yet unborn generations. There is no safe, reliable “cure” for this disease — except prevention. Why do millions insist on hiding their eyes from this obvious truth?
When God created mankind He said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). If this one basic, scriptural principle were obeyed, today, the world would see the end of venereal disease. It would be totally stamped out!
The Bible, clearly, is a remarkable book. Its various portions, written from 4,000 to 2,000 years ago, speak authoritatively regarding health and disease prevention. The Bible not only gave laws of sanitation and hygiene thousands of years before the world in general stumbled across those laws by “accident,” but it also gave other fundamental principles of prevention of disease which the world still refuses to face!”
The Great Paradox
“Paradoxically, the world has come to acknowledge many of the health principles outlined in the Bible, but still refuses to acknowledge the Source. When will men cease to overlook the Source Book for good health? God’s laws were designed to PREVENT illness — to maintain vibrant good health. But the world only gives lip service to them and ignores their source. What a paradox!
It is time we admitted that thousands of years ago when pagan, Gentile nations — steeped in idolatry and superstition — were propounding all kinds of weird remedies and quack cures for illness, there was a nation free from idolatrous superstition, which was taught principles of health and disease prevention which are still valid today! What does this momentous fact mean? Just this: The Bible is no mere book of men — its authorship is divine! Biblical health laws prove — along with the proofs of Biblical prophecy — that the Bible was divinely inspired by the Eternal God!
There is a Creator God. He “manufactured” the human race. And He wrote an “Instruction Book” that goes along with His product, and tells how it is best operated. Just as any automobile manufacturer sends an instruction book along with each new automobile, so God gave us an Instruction Book — the Bible — which tells us how to live, and how to have robust, radiant health and vitality!
There is a Creator God. He “manufactured” the human race. And He wrote an “Instruction Book” that goes along with His product, and tells how it is best operated. Just as any automobile manufacturer sends an instruction book along with each new automobile, so God gave us an Instruction Book — the Bible — which tells us how to live, and how to have robust, radiant health and vitality! The Bible is the foundation of all knowledge, including the knowledge of health. If society will build on its fundamental precepts wisely and soundly, we can avoid the tragedy of increasing sickness and disease. We can begin to eliminate the terrible scourges of modern disease. Biblical laws are the keys to abundant health. They were devised for your protection and well-being. But if you break them, they will break you. Will you begin to obey those laws? Your future health — physically, mentally and emotionally — will depend in large measure on how you answer that question!”
Dialogue, Stigma and HIV Prevention: Engaging the Notion of Dialogue
It is often useful to contrast Dialogue with a more familiar form of communication, discussion. Discussion has the same Greek root as percussion and concussion, discus, meaning to throw, fragment, shatter. David Bohm likened discussion to an activity where we throw our opinions back and forth in an attempt to convince each other of the rightness of a particular point of view. In this process, the whole view is often fragmented and shattered into many pieces. The intentions of dialogue and discussion are quite different and are contrasted below.
Bible, Evil and Disease
The notion of the problem of disease correlates with the problem of evil.
AIDS in a skolopsychichal perspective (a thorn in the flesh) – the sufficiency of God’s grace
AIDS and manifestation of God’s Glory (gloriae reveletus)
On the Condom
Condom – Pleasure – Infection – aim not reached
Condom – legal and illegal use
Condom and carnal impulses – extra marital
Condom and Palliative/ soothing nature of human sexual passion
Interpretation of the Gospel in AIDS Perspective
Seeking help coming from behind and at night (Mk 5: 25 – 34, Jn. 3: 1 – 13)
Speicer S and J. Wilson. 2007. Exploring Solutions: How to Talk About HIV Prevention in the Church. Switzerland: Ecumenical Alliance.
Dankenbring, William F. 1972. Bible Laws — The Foundation of Good Health
Edelston, K. 1988. Countdown to Doomsday: AIDS. Johannesburg: Media House Publications
Toya, Jeran-Samuel, H. AIDS: African Perspective