Friday, December 22, 2006

HIV and adoption part III

I wasn't going to post today but Jeannett left an interesting comment so here I am, posting again. In case you didn't catch it in the comments section of the last post, here it is:

I think a big issue that I struggle with in terms of AIDS in America, is that it is, in fact, a preventable disease. Okay, of course that excludes babies who have no choice and are born with it and the other sorts of things like that...but far and wide, I don't want to say a disease of sinners or that people deserve such a horrendous fate, but I admit it's hard to have a great deal of empathy when you can't help but think that in some ways, if people did quit doing drugs, being sexually promiscuous, the disease as we know it in the United States would phase itself out. Meanwhile, we have a whole laundry list of diseases that are genetic, with no cure (cancer, autism, etc) that are completely void of any kind of behavioral cause/effect. I'm trying to care about it because I think that's what Christ wants of me...but I'll admit it's a little hard to want to focus my efforts on something that is in many ways preventable, when there are so many others out there that maybe aren't nearly as "trendy".

Somehow though, it's much easier for me to have a soft heart towards those in Africa with the disease. Why? I guess because it really is such a pandemic, and the lack of education about it, the very real social stigma you get if you admit to have it (not that there isn't one in the US), and the lack of medical care available makes it such a vicious cycle that it's heartbreaking. And it's much harder to envision an "end" to it.

I think that it's kind of hard to think that with all of the advertising and whatnot we are exposed to here, that anyone would ever say that he didn't know how AIDS was transmitted, etc. In fact, there was even a Law & Order episode about a guy who purposely went around infecting people after knowing he had the virus...and even the poorest of the poor in America has a TV (which is really depressing). There is certainly miseducation about the details of AIDS and how it can be "caught" (as evident in your post) but for the most part, everyone knows some of the basics.

It's an interesting line, and one I've been surprised to see in myself. If I'm open and honest, I will admit outloud that I have a very difficult time wanting to participate in a local AIDS march or donate to the AIDS Center of SLO...but if you ask me to do something that would benefit the cause of AIDS education in Kenya, I'm all for it.

I think this is a very common viewpoint (thanks for being honest and sharing!) I used to wonder/grapple with some of the same things. My perspective has changed a bit over the last year, so I guess I'll share what my thoughts on it are now, and why.

In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 Paul writes about not associating with sexually immoral people--"not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral...In that case you would have to leave this world...What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside."

From this passage I take that it is not my responsibility to worry about what I perceive to be the poor decisions or sins of people in this world we live in. If someone doesn't currently have the hope of Jesus, or if they live a high-risk lifestyle (or take a risk even ONE time), I think Paul would say for us to not concern ourselves with that. In my view, my sin is no different/better/easier to forgive than someone living that lifestyle (do I live in light of that all the time? Absolutely not. But I wish I did--humility is a good thing.) The only difference is that by God's grace and through Christ's sacrifice I can know the hope that is Jesus, His unconditional love and forgiveness for my sin.

SO, if we're not supposed to judge Joe, who happens to be an AIDS patient and is considered "outside the church" in that he is not a believer in Christ, then what SHOULD we be thinking about him? Well, we know from the Bible that we're to love him as ourselves. We know that the greatest commandment is to love God and love others. We know he has a disease and that he is suffering. I think we love him, strive to meet his needs.

There are all sorts of medical conditions we have today that are sometimes the result of unhealthful behavior: heart disease, certain cancers, adult onset diabetes. Yet nothing quite gets people fired up about "making poor choices" like HIV and AIDS. I don't think sexual sin is somehow "worse" in God's eyes than other sins. In fact, when Paul is talking in 1 Corinthians 5 about the "church people" not to associate with, he also lists the "greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler." Yikes!

Personally I would have no qualms participating in an AIDS walk or giving to an AIDS center, in the name of raising money for research or to assist AIDS patients or their families. In the end stages this can be a truly debilitating disease. Those suffering from HIV and AIDS may feel hopeless, depressed, shunned by society because for most of them it means their past decisions are laid bare for everyone to see. I also think it is a pretty cool opportunity for Christians to band together with people of all different backgrounds and to reach out in love.

In addition to all of this, when you look at who AIDS is affecting in the United States, in 2004, 49% of those diagnosed with AIDS were African Americans, even though they only account for 13% of the general population (28% of the diagnoses were for Whites, who comprise 69% of the population.) Studies show that there's an association between higher incidences of AIDS and lower income. And it's said that racial minorities today account for about 75% of all new AIDS cases. Most cases are found in urban areas.

What do the numbers mean? One thing I think they demonstrate is that we must care in general about the human condition--not only about those living with HIV/AIDS, but also about the conditions that lead to poverty, that limit opportunities, and that ultimately contribute to addictions and unhealthy sexual behavior. I think we need to show people that they are valuable and worth something and made in the image of a God who loves them.

Okay, that is quite enough out of me for today, and for the next few days. :) Jeannett thanks for posting. I'm off to have some hot chocolate--yum!


kristen borland said...

Wow. I feel so convicted by this. My nature is to push AIDS issues out of my mind, to just not associate with AIDS at all. What a hypocrite I can be sometimes. It's so easy to just say, well, they were living in sin and here's the result. But I have my sins too. And it's difficult for me to want to stand up with others in the "AIDS movement" (whatever that is exactly) because I don't want to be associated with lifestyle choices of some of the people involved. But what a poor excuse! Jesus would be standing right in the middle of it all! He touched the lepers, spoke with the prostitutes, had dinner with the tax collectors. He didn't care what people thought. I feel ashamed about how much I care what other people think of me, when really only God's opinion counts. Thanks again, Brianna. You're doing a great thing with these blogs. I look forward to your future posts and to reading the book.

Anonymous said...

Brianna, you have such a good heart. It's shocking how often I find the hardness in my own heart after reading what you have to say. I think the part that hit me the hardest is the idea of what better time to witness, but to love someone who maybe did make bad lifestyle choices and is now suffering? How much more real is that love to the person? No agendas, no ulterior motives, just love because Christ loved us. I'm wrapping my brain around all this, and it's challenging, but I'm glad you are posting all of this.

Jeannett (I hate the new blogger, it never lets me log in!)

Rachel said...

Our life experiences help to shape us into the people we are and the causes we focus on. Obviously through the boys adoption HIV/AIDS has become a hot topic for Brianna. And through this blog, it is "infecting" others to cause change.

Just as the mother of the autistic child fightes to find out why and how to make it different for other children and their families. The family who lost a child due to drunk driving starts a foundation to help other families going through the same loss. Or what I read most recently, the mother who had her children in the same booseter seat, ages 3 and 5, only the seat belt detached for one and not the other during a car accident and she lost her three year old son due to a mechanical malfunction. She now fights for families to know the risks of these types of seats and to keep children in five point harnesses for as long as possible.

Yes, Christ wants us to care about all of it. And to extent, hopefully Christians do. What is really important is that we care about something and live our life to provoke change. I'm not talking about your favorite hair product that you tell all your friends about, but about things that matter and need voices to represent them. A good New Year's Resolution perhaps, find your voice and use it. Brianna has been and I know she is being heard.

Brianna Heldt said...

Jeannett I am also wrapping my head around it. Sometimes I feel like God expects SO much out of us, and I guess it's true. I'm really stubborn, so stubborn in fact that it basically took a trip to Africa to really start changing my heart. (It's letting me post on yours again, which is rather exciting!)

Rachel, very true. I meant to say this in response to J's original comment--there's no lack of good causes to give to, advocate for, etc. I think what God is teaching me is that He wants my heart to be soft in general towards people (doesn't come particularly naturally to me in many areas), then He also gives me unique desires and passions and I can go from there in terms of how I expend my energies, money, etc. to help people. If everyone was ONLY concerned about the cause of AIDS in Africa, who would pursue justice for the girls sold into sex slavery in Cambodia, or for the homeless in Santa Maria.

Rachel said...

Well put, it's funny that you mention the Cambodia issue. A pastor was visiting and spoke to our church about it over the summer. It's his passion to stop it. I was totally clueless! I was actually looking at Aubrey the other day in the kitchen thinking about how awful it would be if some monster got his hands on her and turned her into a child prostitute. I thanked God right then for being born here into a life of priviledge where I have running water. I know there will be many challenges parenting young women in our society, but I am thankful that I live where I do while I am going through it.

Chanda said...

I've been lurking on your blog for a while now...My husband and I are just starting the process of adopting from Ethiopia and we have been talking/praying about HIV-positive children and deciding about whether or not it is something we can handle as a family. I just spent Christmas at my parents and had a tough talk with my dad about HIV-positive children. It is really amazing to me that intelligent people in the US can know so little about HIV and AIDS. My dad knew so little about it and really had the attitude that it was something that perhaps "they" had brought onto themselves. dad...a good Christian man had this attitude. It really broke my heart. So, thank you for posting this information. And thank you for bringing this topic into discussion. I bought my mom a copy of "There Is No Me Without You" for Christmas and I'm hoping my dad will read it when she's done. I know that it will teach him a lot. And I hope that I did it justice when I explained things to him the other day. I think his heart was softening by the end of our discussion.

Anyway-thanks again for posting this information. And thanks for letting me lurk!

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes!! This is a great post Brianna!

richlisad said...

Great post Brianna,

My thoughts are that it is not a preventable disease, but a very manageable one - in that like you said, babies, accidents, etc. can happen, but with education transmission can really be minimized.

My early thoughts of the AHOPE kids were why shouldn't they have families too, they haven't done anything. Such innocence.

The level of hope you feel when visiting Layla compared to AHOPE though, the hope of the kids to have a family, you can physically feel the difference. My hope is that the AHOPE kids will soon have the same understanding of family and the hope that comes along with that.

For now there are a few precious kids who are beginning to understand what it means, but that will spread.

Just so you know, your post about visiting AHOPE was some of the early material to fan the flame of our passion for the place - thanks.

Rich & Lisa
Home with Marta, waiting for Meklit.

Anonymous said...

Just saw this in this morning's Sun Times...thought you might be interested. Maybe something we can do together?

AIDS PROJECT CENTRAL COAST needs volunteers to assist with clients and staff, help with the Necessities of Life Pantry in Santa Maria, deliver pre-bagged groceries to homebound clients, and more in the Santa Maria and Lompoc areas. Info: Judith, 349-9947.


Brianna Heldt said...

Hey that's awesome! Let's talk more about it!!!

Anonymous said...

So you give ME grief about being one of "those" bloggers???




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