Theology and HIV
Role and Ideology
This course is concerned with various circumstances surrounding HIV/AIDS in relation to the effort of the church in handling them. The church is the light of the world. Therefore, the world should not be left to walk in darkness as that will be contrary to the spiritual calling of the followers of Christ. Church members are not left out in the effect of the epidemic. Even pastors could become victims; and in such case, the congregation will suffer. Therefore, it has become necessary for those called into the service of God to be included in the struggle against the menace brought about by HIV/AIDS.
2 What is AIDS? What causes AIDS?
The full meaning of AIDS is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. An HIV- positive person receives an AIDS diagnosis after developing one of the AIDS indicator illnesses. Such person can also receive an AIDS diagnosis on the basis of certain blood tests and may not have experienced any serious illnesses. A positive HIV test does not mean that a person has AIDS. A diagnosis of AIDS is made by a physician according to the CDC AIDS Case Definition.
The major problem about HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the awakening of the person’s immune system. Over time, the problem gets to the point that the system has difficulty fighting off certain infections. These types of infections are known as opportunistic infections. Many of the infections that cause problems or that can be life-threatening for people with AIDS are usually controlled by a healthy immune system. The immune system of a person with AIDS has weakened to the point that medical intervention may be necessary to prevent or treat serious illness.
3 How long does it take for HIV to cause AIDS?
Currently, it has been observed that the average time between HIV infection and the appearance of signs that could lead to an AIDS diagnosis is 8-11 years. It means that within this time, one may not notice the presence of the infection except if tested. This time varies greatly from person to person and can depend on many factors including a person's health status and behaviours. Today there are medical treatments that can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system. There are other treatments that can prevent or cure some of the illnesses associated with AIDS. As with other diseases, early detection offers more options for treatment and preventative health care.
4 Where did HIV come from?
At the 6th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunitistic Infections (Chicago, January 1999), it was presented that the origin of HIV can be traced to primates. It was suggested that HIV moved into the human population from a particular species of chimpanzee, probably through blood contact that occurred during hunting and field dressing of the animals. The findings presented at this conference was said to provide the strongest evidence to date that HIV originated in non-human primates.
5 Origin and History of HIV/AIDS
The first cases of AIDS were identified in 1981, and since then more than 20 million people have died. Today, over 40 million people across the world are living with HIV. The spread and the destructive tendency of the epidemic have called for the attention of governments, and health and social services around the world.
A virus subsequently named HIV was identified as the cause of AIDS. The absence of a cure for the disease became the major cause of fear among both the affected and those not affected. However, the fear was somewhat alleviated by the fact that HIV, in Europe and North America at least, was first found primarily in the homosexual community. The long-term effects of this have been devastating. As heterosexuals breathed a collective sigh of relief and dismissed HIV as ‘a gay plague’, their ignorance about how HIV spreads left them continually exposed to infection.
6 Impact and Effect of the Problem
The affected person suffers the pain of the illness that could befall him or her. Pains could be physical or psychological. The fear of the unknown in itself comes with painful experience. The attitude of people around the affected person, which could be that of rejection, could be a serious source of pain.
Every health challenge is capable of affecting the financial standing of a person. The same happens in the case HIV/AIDS. The standard of living of the individual must change; and for that to happen, there will be extra spending on drugs and food. Even if the person enjoys free retroviral drugs, the point of collection may not be near the persons’ resident. Therefore, such person must spend on transportation get any such help.
Death becomes one definite fear of any HIV affected family. The very person carrying the infection continually leaves in fear because his health situation could go bad at any time. Also, members of the family of the affected person equally worry that they may lose their relative anytime.
Over the years, this has been one of the major challenges faced by HIV affected persons, and even their families. This refers to when the person is rejected. The persons’ friends stay away from them, and not accepting to even share things with them. The news is quick to go round that a person has got HIV, and such person is seen as the worst sinner around. Friends and sometimes family members gradually slip away.
The stigmatisation of individuals is a sin against God who made all human beings in His image. When an individual is stigmatised, it is equal to rejecting the image of God, and denying the stigmatised person the fullness of life. This is not just a sin against a neighbour but also a sin against God.