There was a touching newspaper article recently about a local church that recently held a memorial service to remember the thousands who have lost their lives to AIDS. The article stated, “Oklahomans with HIV and AIDS numbered 4,521 last year. But the total of infected Oklahomans could be twice that because many remain undiagnosed.” (The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 12/2/08)
Doctors continue to work tirelessly to lengthen lives and find a cure. Fundraising efforts have garnered an excess of $30 billion dollars over the past decade (UNAIDS) for prevention and to find a cure, but everyone seems to be overlooking the obvious answer. Change the behavior!
According to the 2005 HIV/Aids Fact Sheet produced by the Center for Disease Control, men who have sex with other men accounted for 72% of the transmission of HIV/Aids among adolescent and adult males. High risk heterosexual practices accounted for 15% of all new cases and injection drug use accounted for 5%. That’s right; tens of thousands are dying annually while America spends billions of dollars to fight a plague of which 99% could be eliminated tomorrow simply by a change of behavior.
Americans profess to be concerned about the well being of others. We have seat belt laws and crash helmet laws. We have warnings on cigarette packaging and laws against drinking and driving. We are a country that tries to protect its populace from danger and its individuals from self-destructive actions. But in our age of political correctness, we don’t dare warn people that immoral and abhorrent immoral behavior comes with consequences for fear of being labeled ‘intolerant’.
Not only is there the tragedy of suffering and premature death associated with these terrible sexually transmitted diseases, but there is also the financial burden placed upon the rest of America. A November 2006 article by the Associated Press reported that a person diagnosed with HIV will require an additional $618,000 in medical care over his/her lifetime. According to the Center for Disease Control, the year 2006 saw an estimated 56,300 new HIV/Aids cases diagnosed with 99% of those the result of risky and destructive behavior. That is an annual incremental cost to the American health care system of nearly $35 billion dollars each year every year or almost two trillion dollars over a ten year period. Guess who pays for that in higher health care premiums and/or government spending?
Perhaps one day in the not too distant future, churches won’t just mourn the loss of life to AIDS, but will actually try to prevent the spreading of the disease altogether. It will take a Spiritual revival and a revival of courage in our pulpits, but one day we will realize that it is more compassionate to speak the truth in love than to placate those practicing self-destructive behavior. Their actions matter and so do ours.