February 2008 – It was the noted physicist Albert Einstein who famously defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
It is an insight which applies to the current cultural attitudes toward human sexuality and the consequences of defying God’s purposes for sex – consequences such as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.
When will people realize that continuing in sexual rebellion will never have positive results?
Some 25 years after AIDS was officially named and the federal government aimed its sites at eradicating the disease, HIV continues to cast its frightful shadow over the American sexual scene.
According to Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “There are now more than one million people estimated to be living with HIV in the United States, more than ever before.”
More than ever before? How can that possibly be, with the federal government now spending roughly $20 billion a year on HIV/AIDS research, prevention and treatment?
‘Anyone can get it’
To hear some people answer that question, one might assume that HIV is an airborne virus like influenza, floating about in the air we breathe, just waiting to invade our lungs.
Actress Elizabeth Taylor, who founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991, repeated a common refrain in a USA Today op-ed article in late November. “No one is isolated from this [HIV/AIDS] pandemic, and no one is immune,” she said.
But Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse of the Beverly LaHaye Institute disputed such sweeping statements. “The politically correct mantra about HIV/AIDS is that ‘anybody can get it.’” she said. “This half-truth is as bizarre as pointing to the tragic death of professional naturalist Steve Irwin, best known as ‘The Crocodile Hunter,’ and saying ‘anyone can die from the barb of a stingray.’ … You’re not going to die from a stingray’s barb unless you dive in waters that are home to stingrays.” (Emphasis in original.)
Crouse insisted that, other than the (relatively rare) transmission of HIV from an infected mother to an unborn child or through a blood transfusion or otherwise accidental contact with contaminated blood, getting HIV/AIDS occurs under very limited circumstances.
She said unless a person has “intimate sexual contact with someone who is infected with the HIV/AIDS virus [or] share(s) contaminated needles to do drugs … you will not, I repeat not contract HIV/AIDS.” (Emphasis in original.)
Instead, Crouse concluded, AIDS is “a disease that is almost exclusively a homosexual male and drug addict epidemic.”
According to the CDC, for example, sexually active homosexual men account for roughly half of all new HIV cases each year, and together with intravenous drug users account for 80% of the total AIDS cases in the U.S.
Condoms: The magic bullet?
By far, of course, sexual activity is the leading method of HIV transmission, and heterosexuals are not immune from getting it when they engage in risky sexual activity with infected partners.
That is why – for both homosexuals and heterosexuals – the use of condoms is constantly pushed by the health community and the media as protection against the transmission of the disease.
For example, in a December op-ed in the Washington Post, condom use got an unexpected endorsement from First Lady Laura Bush.
Despite her husband’s consistent support for an abstinence approach in combating AIDS, Laura Bush wrote: “Practice Safe Sex. Let’s take a cue from our African counterparts and follow the ABC method of prevention: Abstinence, Be Faithful and the Correct and Consistent Use of Condoms. That means not just occasionally, but every time.”
“Safe sex” is the party line when it comes to the fight against HIV/AIDS. According to a 2004 report from UNAIDS, the United Nations program to fight the disease, there is “compelling international evidence” which demonstrates that “consistent use of latex male condoms is a highly effective method for preventing HIV transmission.”
But the evidence suggests that condoms are not a magic bullet. In fact, a more detailed look at the UNAIDS report shows that having sex while using condoms may involve a fair amount of risk. “Four meta-analyses of condom effectiveness put the range [of preventing HIV transmission] at 69-94%,” the report admitted.
Even when the report accepted a higher effectiveness rate, the “safety” of safe sex is questionable. When one sex partner had HIV and the other did not, the report said “conclusive evidence” existed to show “that using a condom reduces the probability of HIV transmission during penetrative sex by about 90%” – but only if condoms were used “correctly and consistently.”
However, Edward C. Green, a senior research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, told the Boston Globe’s John Donnelly that a 10% rate of condom failure was “not good enough for a fatal disease.”
He said, “The way condoms are marketed in Africa and other developing parts of the world is as if they were 100% safe.”
Vinand M. Natulya, senior health adviser at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, told Donnelly, “If we tell youth that if you use condoms, you will be safe, then we are actually fueling the epidemic,”
The root problem
Something is obviously fueling the epidemic, since AIDS won’t go away. Is it the reliance on condoms as a strategy? Is the federal government not spending enough money on HIV/AIDS? Are people simply not getting the message of “safe sex?”
The experts are perplexed by the stubborn persistence of the disease. “We were all hoping that number [of HIV infections in the U.S.] would go down at some point,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health’s program on infectious diseases, told the Washington Post. “It hasn’t.”
Unfortunately, the root of the problem lies deeper than secular strategies can reach. The scourge of AIDS has a spiritual root that cannot be cured by condoms.
The fact is, sex is fun, and some people who want more and more of it aren’t likely to curtail their pursuit of sex in order to make Laura Bush happy, nor are they likely to think they will be one of the unfortunate ones to get AIDS.
Many homosexual men are a perfect example of this phenomenon. In a study led by Dr. Kenneth Mayer, medical research director at Boston’s Fenway Community Health, surveys revealed that 37.3% of homosexual men said they had participated in risky sex – that is, unprotected anal intercourse – in the previous three months.
That is despite the fact that the medical community has been preaching against unsafe sex for a quarter of a century.
Moreover, as the Washington Post reported in early December, two recent studies found that one-third of homosexual and bisexual men who knew they had AIDS admitted they had recently had “unsafe” sexual intercourse – meaning without a condom.
And not just with infected partners. Mayer told the Post that his researchers “found that almost a third of the men – 31.4% – said that they had had unprotected anal intercourse with at least one partner of unknown [HIV status], and almost a quarter [23%] had unprotected intercourse with a partner who they knew was HIV uninfected.”
Is it any surprise, then, that HIV/AIDS has not disappeared from the gay community? In Florida, for example, the Sun-Sentinel said state health officials had released stunning statistics which indicated that an estimated 1 in 22 homosexual and bisexual men in the state were already infected with HIV. Reporter Bob LaMendola noted that the figure represented “an infection rate that dwarfs any other group.”
Christopher Lacharite, an HIV prevention coordinator at Compass, a homosexual organization in Palm Beach County, told LaMendola, “There’s no gay man who doesn’t know having unprotected sex can lead to HIV. But sometimes they ignore it, and that’s what we have not been able to address.”
Indeed. That’s because what needs to be addressed is the fact that, as a society, we have OK’d what God has forbidden – homosexual sex and heterosexual sex outside marriage. When we address the consequences of that rebellion by recommending the use of a condom, we are not only pretending there is no rebellion, but we are encouraging it. The message of “use a condom” gives permission to continue the behavior that leads to disaster.
And disaster – like getting HIV – does happen, and not only because condoms aren’t 100% effective against the transmission of the virus. Like the homosexual men in Mayer’s study, sometimes people don’t want to use condoms.
Ironically, the same fallen human nature that refuses to bring sexuality into line with God’s wisdom leads people to refuse to bring their sexuality into line with human wisdom – which is what the “use a condom correctly and consistently” mantra represents.
Ultimately this represents a failure of the church, which has been entrusted not only with the message of God’s purposes for sex, but also with the Gospel. The latter is a message of hope for all those people – heterosexual as well as homosexual – who can’t stop having the kind of sex that can kill them. Only by the grace and power of God that accompanies the preaching of the Gospel will enslaved people be able to break their chains.
Thus, in the end, the only surefire way to kill AIDS is God’s way. Anything less is insanity.