There are many sores in our society, but the one that plagues our world like no other is the AIDS pandemic. Those infected with HIV are treated like lepers and often ignored and shunned.
As the Body of Christ, caring about this disease, which is primarily spread through deviant behavior (though certainly not all the time), it is our chance to do the unexpected … to care for those infected with HIV, no matter the cause.
And with World AIDS Day next week, it’s as good a time as any to act like the person who came to save us.
What Is AIDS?
Many people know the terms HIV and AIDS, and often use them interchangeably, and as a result, incorrectly.
HIV is a virus, the human immunodeficiency virus, one of the most persistent and complicated viruses of all time.
This virus causes the body to become immunodeficient, which means that it causes the body’s immune system to be weakened, which makes the body’s defense system not work as well as it could and as a result, become more susceptible to infections.
AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. AIDS is a result of HIV. It is the last stage of an HIV infection.
A person first gets HIV, and then later, usually years later, will develop AIDS.
A CD4 cell is a type of white blood cell sometimes called a T cell. A person is diagnosed as having AIDS when his or her CD4 cell count drops below a certain level, around 300 cells per millimeters cubed (mm3). The normal range is between 500-1,600 CD4 cells per mm3.
Over time, a person with HIV will lose these cells through destruction by HIV. Then that person will be more vulnerable to infections … opportunistic infections.
Without treatment, the opportunistic infections will eventually claim the life of a person infected with HIV. But treatment is available and it is called ART, which stands for antiretroviral therapy.
Because of the advent of ART, those who once were hopeless and waiting to die now have a second chance. But really why should we care about AIDS?
Why Should We Care About AIDS?
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t view us, the Body of Christ, as people who respond indiscriminately to such a disease.
Jesus healed the blind and lepers and never stopped to judge them or think that they had been cursed. He cared about people … all people, and through the words of Matthew 25 or 1 John 3:16-18, encourages us to do the same.
Jesus speaks of seeing the needs of others and moving beyond this to care for others and their needs … except for those with HIV and AIDS. Right?
No. He meant that we should meet the needs of all those we encounter, whether the needs are physical, emotional or spiritual.
I see the words of these passages as a direct command to jump in, feet first, to the situations we encounter, and in this day and age, there are more than 33 million people in the world living with HIV, some with AIDS. They are battling daily to fight the emotional toll of this disease and the discrimination that comes with it.
There are plenty of opportunities for us to help. And because ART is available, the once-grim prognosis of someone with AIDS is now one of hope.
And because of how Compassion works, we fill in the gaps of care that the government is unable to commit to. By doing so we give great hope to those who a few years ago would have felt very lost and very discouraged.
People who die of AIDS often die in a similar manner as those with cancer, but without the support of loved ones, friends and the community.
AIDS is real, and though there are many more diseases in our age that are also very important to address, this one presents challenges that few can rival.
From the biochemistry and immunology of the virus to the stigma and discrimination that those infected face, HIV and AIDS need attention on all levels … but mostly in the willingness of Christians to live up to the book that we all follow.
This is our chance. The virus has been around for more than 25 years. Let’s be aware, care and dare to make a difference.