There has been much uninformed and prejudiced comment on this blog lately about HIV/AIDs and its relationship to homosexual practice. Much of it has been of the nudge-nudge say-no-more variety because I suspect that the commenters would be ashamed to write out exactly what they think.
Here is some information from the Men’s sexual health website from the UK:
HIV does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation – it can infect male or female, heterosexual or homosexual, young or old. It is true that AIDS cases first appeared in significant numbers among the gay community, but it was quickly discovered that HIV infections were not limited to this group. Although the origins of HIV are not fully understood, it is likely that the early prevalence of the virus amongst gay men happened purely by chance.
In the UK HIV does disproportionately affect gay men, with around 80% of all known UK infections contracted through sex between men. However, this is not true in other countries, and when HIV infections which have been acquired abroad are factored in heterosexual sex becomes the most common method of transmission.
If HIV and AIDS were sent by god to punish gay men, divine intervention of this nature was a very poor move. HIV has infected millions of women, heterosexual men, and children worldwide. It is a shame that AIDS has been used by certain religious factions to attack homosexuality. It deflects from the far broader issues involved, causes great distress, and points to a gross lack of understanding. Whatever a person’s faith, they should regard AIDS as an illness like countless others, not as a tool for reinforcing their own beliefs.
And now for a reasonable response to the challenge of AIDs from Ron Sider, prof of Theology at Eastern Baptist Seminary in a speech titled “AIDS: An Evangelical Perspective”
What about the charge that AIDS is God’s punishment for gays? For many this question might not even arise, and it is not the most important question. But it is essential to deal with it at some length, first, because some evangelicals have made this charge; second, because the media have spread the charge far and wide; and third, because some religious people discussing AIDS seem to want to ignore the biblical teaching that there is a moral order in the universe and that wrong choices have consequences.
To begin with, it is wrong to suggest that God created AIDS as a special punishment for the sin of homosexual practice. Such a suggestion ignores, for one thing, much empirical data. Apparently the virus is new. Why would God wait for millennia to design this special punishment? Furthermore, many people who have not engaged in homosexual activity have AIDS. At least 500 babies have already been born with AIDS, and a minimum of 700 people have contracted the disease through blood transfusions. If AIDS is divine punishment for homosexual practice, why don’t gay women get it? Are the radical feminists right that God is exclusively female? In parts of Africa, AIDS affects heterosexuals and homosexuals in approximately equal numbers.
Furthermore, there is no biblical basis for linking specific sicknesses with specific kinds of sin. Certainly sickness and death are the result, in biblical thought, of the fall, but a specific sickness is seldom related to a specific sinful act, and then only by special prophetic declaration. In the one situation where Jesus explicitly dealt with the question, he emphatically rejected the suggestion that blindness was caused by a man’s sin or that of his parents (John 9:2-3) Rather, Jesus said that the reason for the blindness was to make manifest the works of God. If Christians today offer compassionate, costly care to people with AIDS, they will in a similar way bring glory to God.
Evangelicals should be able, however, to condemn homosexual practice as a sinful lifestyle without being charged with homophobia or blamed for many of the problems emerging in the AIDS epidemic. Almost all evangelicals consider homosexual practice (which must be carefully distinguished from homosexual orientation) to be sinful. And I agree, although I want to add that it is no more sinful than adultery, greed, gossip, racism or materialism.