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Christians make AIDS fight a high priority
December 21, 2004 5:53 AM   Subscribe

The Church Awakens "The AIDS pandemic is the greatest humanitarian crisis," Casey said. "It just begs a reaction from the church." The church is now in full reaction mode. More than 2,000 Christian medical professionals, church leaders, and students gathered for the ninth annual Global Missions Health Conference, November 11-13, at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. They spoke not only of statistics that confirmed the extent of the pandemic (43 million people living with HIV/AIDS; 8,000 deaths each day; 14 million orphans), but of working together.
posted by halekon (62 comments total)

 
Once again folks - in the right corner it's religion..
posted by three blind mice at 5:57 AM on December 21, 2004


Christians could do much to help stop the spread of AIDS, including promoting the use of condoms, and encouraging Bush to do the same overseas. Focusing on "treatment" is code for maintaining suffering.
posted by AlexReynolds at 5:59 AM on December 21, 2004


Focusing on "treatment" is code for maintaining suffering.

Way to go! You've really got this religion thing figured out!
posted by WebToy at 6:34 AM on December 21, 2004


Focusing on "treatment" is code for maintaining suffering.

Yes, they all sat around saying: "Now, we want to maintain suffering, but we can't very well come right out and say that, can we? We need a code word! How about 'treatment'? That'll fool 'em!"

Anyway, I think your axe is sufficiently ground, AlexReynolds.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:39 AM on December 21, 2004


Way to go!...

Ounce of prevention, whatnot. This has less to do with religion specifically and more to do with shortsightedness. Your snark is completely ad hominem. Trying to start a flame war, are we?
posted by RockCorpse at 6:43 AM on December 21, 2004


halekon, I'm going to assume from previous comments of yours that you probably don't intend this post the way that many, many people here are probably going to take it (as a chance to trumpet what's now finally happening, and promote the church).

No matter what, though, posting a single news link like this with no context is just asking for a flamewar. If nothing else, take a hint from the experiences of some other newbies, and don't get too sensitive about the responses you're likely to get. (And put a bit more substance into your FPPs.)
posted by LairBob at 6:44 AM on December 21, 2004


(To say nothing of your nickname, I guess...)
posted by LairBob at 6:49 AM on December 21, 2004


I wish the article had more specifics about what was discussed at the conference. What does it mean that they want to 'prevent, treat, and care' for those with AIDS. What is their definition of prevention? Abstinance? I don't know. The article doesn't say.

It's nice that they're working together, but what how are they going to work together and who exactly is working together.

What was then accomplished? That they realized that AIDS is bad and something needs to be done? What's next?
posted by Arch Stanton at 6:50 AM on December 21, 2004


Halekon, do you have any other information about what was discussed at the conference?
posted by Arch Stanton at 6:52 AM on December 21, 2004


What was then accomplished?

Well, the article was a bit vague, but to start it looks like they've agreed on a program for funding free drugs for AIDS treatment.
posted by unreason at 6:54 AM on December 21, 2004


This is nice. Churches need to get more involved in HIV/Aids prevention and treatment, not to mention all the other preventable and treatable diseases that are killing people right and left. Some churches have official positions that are simply abhorrent, like the Vatican, which is actively undermining prevention efforts around the world because it is more important to the Catholic Church to restrict the use of condoms than it is to prevent the spread of HIV. This article explains the current Vatican anti-condom, anti-person propaganda.

In Baltimore, where I live and work in an HIV clinic, I was having a discussion with a patient just yesterday who cannot find a church that is willing to make discussing HIV part of its mandate, to say nothing of its mission. He is currently church shopping based on just this issue. He's got an IQ of 59, and he can see the reason why, in a city like Baltimore, there needs to be church involvement, but none of his pastors can.
posted by OmieWise at 6:58 AM on December 21, 2004


What was then accomplished? That they realized that AIDS is bad and something needs to be done? What's next?

From the article: "The $335 million ART (Anti-Retroviral Treatment) project brings together Catholic groups with a policy group and a research school to deliver treatment to 137,600 Africans and Haitians in five years." Don't know if that project was specifically "accomplished" at the conference, but the article certainly suggests that the conference participants would be involved in the project's execution.

Trying to start a flame war, are we?

No, I'm pretty sure that was AlexReynolds.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:59 AM on December 21, 2004


But God made AIDS, right?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:09 AM on December 21, 2004


Some churches have official positions that are simply abhorrent, like the Vatican, which is actively undermining prevention efforts around the world because it is more important to the Catholic Church to restrict the use of condoms than it is to prevent the spread of HIV.

The greatest fallacy of organized religion is the demand from its organizers that it be infallible. Because of that dogma, it becomes painfully difficult for any church to maintain its own credibility of faith while admitting they screwed up royally on their opinion. The Vatican apologized for centuries-old atrocities only years ago; it was less than a few generations when it finally admitted the earth revolves around the sun.

That's essentially the danger of Islamic fascism in the Middle East- a handful of Mullahs have declared that their doctrines are without question, and by their hardline devotion to their own belief in being right, the laws are shaped to confirm that, rather than the other way around. It's what makes the desire for Christianists like Falwell and to a lesser degree the President to do exactly the same in America so frightening: such and such should be illegal, because we believe the bible says so, and the Bible is never wrong... except when there's no way for it not to be.

Conservatives are demanding some kind of "return of religion to government," and are going to fail because of this Taliban-esque mentality. If Christian religious leaders addressed AIDS in terms of "look, we're against condoms. We think sex outside of marriage is a sin. But seriously, condoms help prevent AIDS, so decide what's more important," faith would find itself back in daily political debate much quicker.

Christianity teaches that one of the greatest of God's gifts to humanity is free will; why the Church doesn't believe in facilitating that gift by assisting in presenting all the choices, good or bad as they see them, seems contradictory to its very principles.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:09 AM on December 21, 2004


maybe this will get me flamed, but on a continent where there are a high percentage of HIV positive people using a condom seems like a far less ounce of prevention than abstaining from sex.

pity for many of you anti-religious zealots that this coincides with the church's moral position, but it seems also logically and scientifically the best advice.
posted by three blind mice at 7:14 AM on December 21, 2004


Without strong and successful prevention, these conferences and the focus they have on treatment will just be treating symptoms without treating the problem itself. $330 million in treatment is nothing to sneeze at and it's wonderful that they're doing this, but $330 million towards prevention of AIDS will go much further, assuming it's done properly. From what I can tell from the limited article, not much attention is being paid to this aspect.

On a cynical note, perhaps the churches think that politically, they can 'earn more capital' by helping and giving care and love and meds for people who have AIDS than putting those efforts into trying to prevent the disease in the first place.
posted by Arch Stanton at 7:17 AM on December 21, 2004


My brother died of AIDS. We're not going to have good progress while so many people are still worshipping his "all-loving" murderer.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:19 AM on December 21, 2004


Yes, they all sat around saying: "Now, we want to maintain suffering, but we can't very well come right out and say that, can we? We need a code word! How about 'treatment'? That'll fool 'em!"

I have a friend who does sign interpreting for deaf people. One of the major pet peeves of the deaf is religious people who want to help them. The reason is not that they don't appreciate the help but that the typical reason religious people get involved is not really to help deaf people to proselytize.

Which is to say that, as cynical as it seems, but as true as it is, most Christians do not help others in an organized fashion for the purpose of helping those in need, but as a mission to spread the word of the lord.

Another demonstrated and popular case in point is the Salvation Army, which feeds homeless people into the machinery of organized religion.

Religious organizations have little need for people who aren't suffering. Maintaining HIV infection pools secures a fresh supply of souls for the church. Stopping the spread of HIV hurts enrollment figures.

I would take religious missions more seriously if they actually went beyond maintaining the existence of people in need, and did something to say, stop HIV from spreading in the first place, which they do not do.

Anyway, I think your axe is sufficiently ground, AlexReynolds.

If you think I'm grinding an axe, I haven't even gotten started.
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:23 AM on December 21, 2004


Nit: "the Church"?

I don't see the Pope mentioned here; outside of that general colloquial usage, this usage seems deceptively general. I realize you're copying the title from the article, but AFAICS this contributes to the notion that Christians all agree (or at least ought to) on moral issues. They don't, and from the perspective of a student of comparative religion, there's no real reason to expect them to.
posted by lodurr at 7:25 AM on December 21, 2004


but it seems also logically and scientifically the best advice.

Saying "All you people: stop having sex." and expecting it to happen sounds logical to you?
posted by jpoulos at 7:28 AM on December 21, 2004


Religious organizations have little need for people who aren't suffering. Maintaining HIV infection pools secures a fresh supply of souls for the church. Stopping the spread of HIV hurts enrollment figures.

I just can't even grasp the depth of cynicism that lies behind that statement. I'm not Christian or religious (I'm either agnostic or "soft atheist," depending on your definition), but I find that to be an absurd and offensive statement. Hell, I think The Church's stance on contraception is completely misguided. But I'm not about to extrapolate from that some hidden desire to amplify suffering.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:29 AM on December 21, 2004


pity for many of you anti-religious zealots that this coincides with the church's moral position, but it seems also logically and scientifically the best advice.

Please. Women and children have little or no choice when it comes to having sex in many African cultures. And I'm not saying that to be inflammatory I am saying that becasue that is what I have been told by the dozen or more people I personally know that have worked and lived in Africa for extended periods. Including quite a few associated with religious charities.

Grass-roosts or convent or African based Christian charities have been helping AIDS patients and orphans for a long time, it's about time the brass got involved as well. That's my axe to grind with religion: it ignores the very good advice of its own front line and leaves decision making up to people who are hopelessly out of touch with the real world.
posted by fshgrl at 7:32 AM on December 21, 2004


Christian religious leaders addressed AIDS in terms of "look, we're against condoms. We think sex outside of marriage is a sin. But seriously, condoms help prevent AIDS, so decide what's more important,"

You're missing the point. The Catholic church is theoretically predicated on providing the only route to eternal salvation; earthly suffering and death as well as living without sin is but a test to access salvation. The church has stated that using condoms is wrong, it can't just say that a behaviour it had classified as sinful is no longer so important to obey in order to prolong life as it undermines the churches teaching about saving one's immortal soul. To do so would repudiate the more important (from the churches view) role - and coincidentally - the source of its power. Effectively the catholic church has backed itself into a corner with regard to this issue.
posted by biffa at 7:37 AM on December 21, 2004


3BM,

I agree with you up to a point, but that is not the position of the Catholic Church on this issue. The position is not that abstinence is a better idea, but that using a condom will get you AIDS. This is false, and the Bishops know it, because they are smart people. It is a cynical and wholly despicable attempt to scare people into following Catholic dogma.

Also, and perhaps more to the point, as fshgrl points out, not having sex is often not a choice. We know from the epidemiology of the epidemic in Africa that many women are infected by their husbands, who have been sleeping with prostitutes or other women in cities. Those wives do not have the same say over saying no that one would hope.
posted by OmieWise at 7:40 AM on December 21, 2004


Also, we now know that abstinence pledges and education do not lower STD rates.

"The problem, the study found, is that those virginity "pledgers" are much less likely to use condoms."

Abstinence itself is obviously protective, but the issue is not with the theoretical, but with how it plays out in public health. If people are not taught to use or respect condoms, then they have sex anyway but do not use condoms. People want to have sex, for public health purposes we need to make that as safe as possible, and not pretend that just because religious leaders are anti-sex that everyone else will be too.
posted by OmieWise at 7:45 AM on December 21, 2004


Agreed. I'm curious to see how this effort pans out.
posted by FormlessOne at 7:48 AM on December 21, 2004


on a continent where there are a high percentage of HIV positive people using a condom seems like a far less ounce of prevention than abstaining from sex.

Except that abstinence education, independent of HIV infection rates, fails miserably. This is statistical fact. Education about birth control has been demonstrated to work successfully to reduce HIV and other STD rates in Africa and SE Asia. This, too, is statistical fact.

Therefore, given two options, both of which you know the general outcomes, which are you going to pick, as a rational, thoughtful human being?
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:48 AM on December 21, 2004


maybe this will get me flamed, but on a continent where there are a high percentage of HIV positive people using a condom seems like a far less ounce of prevention than abstaining from sex.

Yes, yes, yes, abstaining from sexual activity, intravenous drug use, and, uh, being a hemophiliac will absolutely stop the spread of HIV infection.

No, no, no, people will never abstain from engaging in sexual activity, and it is pure folly to expect that a few words from Jerry Falwell will change the most ingrained drive in nearly every person on this planet. Programs encouraging abstinence don't work. Programs encouraging the use of condoms, as well as the distribution of free condoms, do.

but it seems also logically and scientifically the best advice.

Except that it does not work and will not work. Let's be realistic, please. Believe in whatever god you want, but this problem won't go away through the application of ancient theology.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:49 AM on December 21, 2004


For people interested in HIV or other health related news, I think one of the best sources are the daily reports from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Here is a link to the Daily HIV Report, but they have other reports on general health news, reproductive health news, etc. They cover all sides of the issues. Free to your inbox.
posted by OmieWise at 7:58 AM on December 21, 2004


jpoulous:Saying "All you people: stop having sex." and expecting it to happen sounds logical to you?

here's a condom - no go to south africa and shag away. no worries.

what i am saying is that abstinence offers a far greater degree of protection against infection than using a condom and on this basis is makes sense to promote it as the best choice for those people who have a choice.

or if it makes you happy tell them to go home and wank. it offers equally effective prevention and the people you are saving can sin at the same time satisfying your disdain for religion.

fhsgrl please a man who rapes a woman or child probably isn't going to stop to put a condom on.
posted by three blind mice at 7:59 AM on December 21, 2004


what i am saying is that abstinence offers a far greater degree of protection against infection than using a condom and on this basis is makes sense to promote it as the best choice for those people who have a choice.

Sure, it's the best choice. But the church promotes it as the only choice. That's bad.

In addition, I'd like to point out that proper punctuation and capitalization are awesome and you that might want to look into it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:04 AM on December 21, 2004


fhsgrl please a man who rapes a woman or child probably isn't going to stop to put a condom on.
I'm not talking about rape, I'm talking about marraige of young women (arranged or otherwise) and multiple wives and prostitution.

Saying no is not an option for many women, married or otherwise. It's not an option for many women in the US, imagine how well it goes down in a place where there is no emergency services or police or battered womens shelters to help you out.
posted by fshgrl at 8:07 AM on December 21, 2004


[W]hat i am saying is that abstinence offers a far greater degree of protection against infection than using a condom and on this basis is makes sense to promote it as the best choice for those people who have a choice.

But its been tried and shown to not work. Please read the attached links I provided above.
posted by AlexReynolds at 8:13 AM on December 21, 2004


...most Christians do not help others in an organized fashion for the purpose of helping those in need, but as a mission to spread the word of the lord....

Another demonstrated and popular case in point is the Salvation Army, which feeds homeless people into the machinery of organized religion.


Not true. I've worked with the Salvation Army, and they are not just in it to convert people, nor are most of the other church groups. They preach, of course, but they don't kick people out for not being Christian. Nor are they pushy about their preaching, for example, the day care program I was a part of had no religious content. They do, however, do quite a lot for feeding the hungry and giving a home to people with no place to go. In most cases, the Army helps people that no one else seems interested in helping. But I guess they must have an ulterior motive. After all, the great AlexReynolds has figured out our secret, that all Christians are wicked, wicked people!
posted by unreason at 8:26 AM on December 21, 2004


alexreynolds: same challenge to you - here's a condom go to soweto and shag away. shag day noon and night: women, men, prostitutes, anyone who consents.

would you do it? if not then why do you recommend it for africans?

i'm not arguing religion. i'm arguing that the statistical risk of infection favors abstinence.
posted by three blind mice at 8:29 AM on December 21, 2004


Religious organizations have little need for people who aren't suffering. Maintaining HIV infection pools secures a fresh supply of souls for the church. Stopping the spread of HIV hurts enrollment figures.

Now you're a midreader, I guess. There are millions of religious people of all descriptions in the world, plenty of whom do charitable works, and I'd imagine the motivations of these people are as diverse as anybodys. Pigeonholing and blanket statements are insulting and counterproductive.

Which is to say that, as cynical as it seems, but as true as it is, most Christians do not help others in an organized fashion for the purpose of helping those in need, but as a mission to spread the word of the lord.

Because Christians are bad, even when they do good things, because they're just bad. Besides, plenty of people do charitable works to pimp a political cause, for personal gain, and for mere self-gratification. Who cares ultimately, the AIDS crisis needs all the help it can get.

When it comes to abstinence-only foolishness, that's obviously counterproductive, but if they want to donate medical help or personal assistance to those suffering, I say great.
posted by jonmc at 8:29 AM on December 21, 2004


here's a condom go to soweto and shag away. shag day noon and night: women, men, prostitutes, anyone who consents.

Whoa there. Nobody is saying just drop condoms out of a bomber over the continent and the problem is solved. It's about education, knowledge, safety, and condoms is an aspect of the issue. Don't bother to try and reduce Alex's or anyone else's argument to just giving people condoms and telling them to shag away.
posted by Arch Stanton at 8:35 AM on December 21, 2004


Exactly how is giving away drugs preventing condoms from being given away? Unlike George Bush, these private groups don't forbid sex ed or condom give aways. They just have decided that they're not going to do them. There's nothing to prevent another group from giving out condoms while the groups mentioned in the article continue to give away drug treatments.
posted by unreason at 8:39 AM on December 21, 2004


Hell, I think The Church's stance on contraception is completely misguided. But I'm not about to extrapolate from that some hidden desire to amplify suffering.
While the Missionaries of Charity have already witheld help from the starving in Ethiopia or the orphans in India -- despite having received donations in their names -- there are others who are being actively harmed by the organisation's ideology of disorganisation.

In 1994, Robin Fox, editor of the prestigious medical journal Lancet, in a commentary on the catastrophic conditions prevailing in Mother Teresa's homes, shocked the professional world by saying that any systematic operation was foreign to the running of the homes in
India: TB patients were not isolated, and syringes were washed in lukewarm water before being used again. Even patients in unbearable pain were refused strong painkillers, not because the order did not have them,
but on principle. "The most beautiful gift for a person is that he can participate in the suffering of Christ," said Mother Teresa.

Once she had tried to comfort a screaming sufferer, "You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you." The sufferer screamed back,furious, "Then tell your Jesus to stop kissing me."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:53 AM on December 21, 2004


three blind mice, your hypothetical situation is ridiculous. Nobody is saying "here are condoms, have all the sex you want!" The point is recognizing that (some) people are going to have sex, no matter what the cost may be.

Believing that a 100% abstinence rate is possible is not realistic, outside of monasteries and convents. So you educate honestly, saying that condoms are not completely effective, but abstinence is. Make condoms the status quo, and abstinence the higher standard that everyone strives for. It's possible that some religions aren't going to be happy with a condom status quo, but maybe the reality of mass infection is a lot more pressing than the sin of safer sex.
posted by mikeh at 8:55 AM on December 21, 2004


A more accurate title for this article would the 'The EVANGELICAL Church Awakens." I know for a fact that the GBGM of the United Methodist Church has been working on AIDS-related issues for years.

In the traditional mainstream demoninations like the UMC, 'missions' work is very much focussed on the social gospel. We very rarely go out to with the explicit intention of converting. Rather, we believe that the only possible way to gain converts it by practicing the values that we hold as central to our faith: compassion, justice, social gospel, etc.
posted by tippiedog at 8:58 AM on December 21, 2004


That article on Mother Teresa is just wow. I had no idea.
posted by fshgrl at 9:15 AM on December 21, 2004


i'm not arguing religion. i'm arguing that the statistical risk of infection favors abstinence.

And the scientific studies I quoted indicate that abstinence-only increases HIV and STD infection rates. So we're at an impasse.

Either you read and acknowledge the science in those and many other studies or you continue to take an optimistic, yet demonstrably failed approach to human sexuality.

My suggestion is for religious folk to consider the science on this one. The data are there if you care to read them.

Teaching abstinence and crossing ones fingers has led to a catastrophic pandemic that only serves the interests of a few small groups of people: churches, pharmaceutical companies, leaders with a religious agenda, etc.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:29 AM on December 21, 2004


*shags away*
posted by jpoulos at 9:41 AM on December 21, 2004


Because Christians are bad, even when they do good things, because they're just bad. Besides, plenty of people do charitable works to pimp a political cause, for personal gain, and for mere self-gratification. Who cares ultimately, the AIDS crisis needs all the help it can get.

I'm going to regret answering your post but I'll play devil's advocate and suggest that treatment without education is a bad idea, and makes the problem worse. Essentially religious organizations intend with this program to prolong the lives of AIDS patients without providing them with the necessary education and resources to prevent them from infecting others. This is an even larger tragedy, in hindsight. Not all help is good help.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:44 AM on December 21, 2004


My brother died of AIDS. We're not going to have good progress while so many people are still worshipping his "all-loving" murderer.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:19 AM PST on December 21


single most brutal comment i've ever read.
posted by fake at 9:49 AM on December 21, 2004


Indeed.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:52 AM on December 21, 2004


I'm going to regret answering your post but I'll play devil's advocate and suggest that treatment without education is a bad idea, and makes the problem worse.

I'm not disagreeing with you on that. It's the blanket assumptions that all religious people's and organizations motives are alike and suspect that angered me and I suspect others.

I understand that you, as a gay man, have a justified grudge against organized religion. I understand completely. I've taken loads of shit in my life for being gay-positive and I've given many a homophobe a peice of my mind (which you know from experience is no fuckin' Mardi Gras).

But conversely, I don't think you should let that blind you to the fact that there are religious people out there who want to help and who want to do the right thing in this crisis. Cos to be honest a lot of your bile just alienates people who might otherwise be on your side.

Now, go ahead, accuse me of being an "apologist for the right." I call it reaching out for the best in people and refusing to wallow in petulance and despair.
posted by jonmc at 9:58 AM on December 21, 2004


pity for many of you anti-religious zealots that this coincides with the church's moral position, but it seems also logically and scientifically the best advice.

This also exemplifies the critical misunderstanding in the current so-called culture war. I don't think abstinence isn't the solution because I disagree with religious people. I disagree with religious people because they think that abstinence is the solution. If that makes any sense. Which came first, my disdain for American religious institutions, or those institutions' insistence on ignoring facts and denying reality? I assure you, it's door number two.
posted by jpoulos at 10:04 AM on December 21, 2004


I don't think you should let that blind you to the fact that there are religious people out there who want to help and who want to do the right thing in this crisis.

If I was religious and had genuine feelings of compassion and humanity, I'd prefer to solve a problem at its roots, rather than make sure my branch of Christianity has more members than the other branch, to spread my memes as far and wide as possible. Their definition of help is markedly different from mine.

I don't doubt these people think they're doing the right thing, but witholding information from people so as to help them prevent even further suffering is, honestly, even worse than doing nothing.

Let alone fixing the problem, the motivations of organized religion may not even be primarily based around helping people alleviate their suffering.

I suggest history is a good reference point for whether I'm off the mark or not. I think my cynicism is backed up by reality. We'll just have to agree to disagree, I suppose.

At some point, you call a spade a spade, because some people just don't care to listen, no matter how carefully and politely you try to reason with them. If I'm an asshole to refuse to kowtow any longer to ignorance, simply out of social graces, so be it.
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:16 AM on December 21, 2004


This also exemplifies the critical misunderstanding in the current so-called culture war

It's not entirely a misunderstanding. If you want proof, read some of the comments in this thread. The churches have just decided to give millions of dollars worth of live-saving medication away free of charge to the poor, just because they think that it's the right thing to do, yet, many of the commenters act like the churches have just decided to burn Africa to the ground. The idea that there are people who will badmouth an idea solely because it was said by a Christian is not unfounded.
posted by unreason at 10:19 AM on December 21, 2004


Teaching abstinence and crossing ones fingers has led to a catastrophic pandemic -AlexRyenolds

Goddamn right. Teaching abstinence only makes sense if education can eliminate the human appetite for sex, and so far there is no evidence of that. It's contrary to human nature. People basically need to have sex. Some people will choose complete abstinence anyway, when they fully understand that there are risks of infection even with condom use, but most people will keep on fucking. So, logically, education and availability of protection will be the best solution.

I applaud any organization (Christian or otherwise) that chooses to try to ease the suffering of people with AIDS, but if they are to be truly helpful, they will employ science and reason, and this includes coming to terms with the fact that human beings are extremely sexual, and all the shame and repression and scientific data on the incidence of condom breakage in the world will not change that.
posted by apis mellifera at 10:20 AM on December 21, 2004


If I was religious and had genuine feelings of compassion and humanity, I'd prefer to solve a problem at its roots, rather than make sure my branch of Christianity has more members than the other branch, to spread my memes as far and wide as possible. Their definition of help is markedly different from mine.

There you go with the blanket statements, again. Not every religious person sees it that way or is against education or condom use. Not every religious person is Fred Phelps. Stop being so either/or about this.
posted by jonmc at 10:21 AM on December 21, 2004


but withholding information from people so as to help them prevent even further suffering is, honestly, even worse than doing nothing.

Who is withholding anything? The church isn't doing anything preventing you from getting on a plane, going to Africa, and teaching condom use. They're just saying that this is what they're going to do. They're saving lives in the way they choose, with their money, with their time, and in many cases at great personal risk. You have the same freedom, should you decide to exercise it. You say that the Christians are doing a bad job. Maybe they are. If so, how about you show them how things should be done, perhaps by doing something yourself? Time and time again I hear people criticizing Christian charity, but doing nothing themselves. I've pitched in and helped out as a Christian in charitable causes. If you think something should be done, do it yourself, or donate to people who will. But don't sit around complaining that the only people willing to do something aren't doing it right.
posted by unreason at 10:27 AM on December 21, 2004


It's not the first time a Christian group has contributed to the fight against HIV/AIDS. The World Council of Churches has been working on this issue for years. Their approach doesn't teach absitnence only.

Don't assume to know what a beliefs a group might espouse just because they fit the label "Christian". There is no "THE Church". The label Christian applies to a very diverse group of people - just like many other terms such as American, or Muslim, or Gay. Just because someone belongs a group, that doesn't mean you can predetermine all their behaviours or their outlook on every topic. Just as all Gay people are not the same, all Americans are not the same, also not all Christians are the same.
posted by raedyn at 10:37 AM on December 21, 2004


At the risk of getting in too deep, I would suggest that there are several different conversations going on here. Clearly the article is about something good that is going on, that a set of churches has chosen to do. Many people are reading that and are simply happy that it is so.

Other's cannot help but think that the issue of organized religion and how it chooses to address the epidemic of HIV/Aids goes beyond what is presented in the article. That doesn't mean that the churches discussed in the article are doing bad, but that there are other churches (see my link to Vatican pronouncements on condoms) that are not doing such great work. They are, in fact, acting against the interests of humanity. Unfortunately this is a very pressing issue because thanks to our whack job of a zealotrous President, it has also become official US policy.

While I'm not interested in defending any blanket condemnations of religion on this or any other point, I think that those who are arguing so strongly that big R Religion has it right here and should be commended are choosing their evidence a touch too carefully.
posted by OmieWise at 10:41 AM on December 21, 2004


I don't think you should let that blind you to the fact that there are religious people out there who want to help and who want to do the right thing in this crisis.

Of course there are: but being a decent human being doesn't make you everything you think and do automatically OK, in fact I'd say it's not that big of a deal, most people are relatively decent. Even heathens like me. However, I have never seen any evidence that Doing The Right Thing weighed heavily on the minds of those running the major world religions, and that's who we're discussing here.

There are a lot of clergy in my family and they're all good people but that doesn't make me think that the Pope is right about everything or that I'm going to hell because I have sex outside of marriage.
posted by fshgrl at 11:07 AM on December 21, 2004


alexreynolds: same challenge to you - here's a condom go to soweto and shag away. shag day noon and night: women, men, prostitutes, anyone who consents.

It's best not to enter a battlefield; however, if you must, it is smart to wear a flak jacket.

Do you understand yet?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:12 AM on December 21, 2004


The great incurable STD of early modern times was syphillis. There was no such thing as sex education in schools and churches and the authorities preached nothing but abstinence and we all know how well it worked out...

Only 20th century developments in treatment and testing reduced the threat it posed. So yes money spent on treatment is a good thing, but no, preaching abstinence doesn't halt major STD pandemics.
posted by Flitcraft at 1:24 PM on December 21, 2004


jeez. i am as much as an atheist as any of you and i still think this is pretty fucking cool. i absolutely agree that prevention is the most important thing in fighting the spread of aids, but tell that to the 43 million people who will die from it without treatment. if this is the only part of the process the church is willing to get involved with, because of their dogma, then more power to them. as much as i wish they would teach responsible sex instead of no sex whatsoever, money for treatment in countries where people can only afford to spend $15 a year on health care is nothing to scoff at.
posted by pikachulolita at 2:15 PM on December 21, 2004


optimus chyme: It's best not to enter a battlefield; however, if you must, it is smart to wear a flak jacket.

Exactly! That speaks to prevention, which is key.

As far as treatment is concerned, I'm glad that more churches are getting involved. I hope they can truly become part of the solution.
posted by darkstar at 2:23 PM on December 21, 2004


Who am I to tell them how to spend their money, but $330 million in proper prevention is worth billions in treatment. I hope some other organization can step up with a similar amount and try to tackle other aspects of this crisis.
posted by Arch Stanton at 2:43 PM on December 21, 2004


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