Religious fundamentalists view it as divine punishment for drug addicts and the sexually promiscuous. Politicians view it as bunch of statistics to pinpoint failures in health care programs and policies. The decidedly licentious use it to promote the need to be 'well-protected' during sex. And then there are those who just don't care because AIDS hasn't touched anyone they know, and they are convinced it never will.
The trouble is, most of these opinions simply grapple at the superficial and manage to address only one side of the issue. It may be an important side, but it is, nevertheless, 'only' one side. A comprehensive assessment is essential but it, somehow, does the slip whenever any discussion or debate takes place on the subject. And it is not hard to see why. Sex and drugs are a potent combination in the best of times, and if you bring in a deadly disease into the equation, then fireworks are to be expected, creating a lot of heat and dust and nothing else.
Now I do believe there is a place for debates on AIDS, and there is a serious need to address moral and spiritual matters that concern this disease. It is necessary to look into the 'why', 'how' and, also, look into ways that would discourage people from pursuing a lifestyle that makes them increasingly vulnerable to AIDS. It is so vital to continuously engage ourselves in conversation and keep the subject alive. Silence will only lead to either denial or irrelevance, and both options are not welcome because the statistics are not going to alter according to the changing contours of our opinions.
And the statistics compiled by UNAIDS/WHO does not present a very encouraging picture. As of December 2006, the total number of people living with HIV is 39.5 million, and out of this huge number children below 15 years constitute 2.3 million. As far as AIDS death is concerned, the total number, as of December 2006, is 2.9 million, and out of this figure, fatalities amongst children below 15 years came to 380,000. However, the most heart-rending statistic was about those who were newly infected with AIDS, which was 4.3 million people, and children constituted 530,000. Is 2007 going to be a happy new year for these people? Do the math and you'll get the answer.
But no matter what side of the debate we are, it is important to realise that, at the end of the day, AIDS is not about fancy statistics, divine wrath, sexual choices, and morality. AIDS is about people who are sick and dying and in need of healing. That's what it is all about. AIDS is about people with friends and family who will be left grieving the loss of their loved one. AIDS is about people with skills and talents that will be cut short by this dreaded disease. AIDS is about people whose potential will never be realised. AIDS is about people with a history of affection for others that will turn into a memory. AIDS is about people who will be missed. It is not about debating points, but people. It is not about statistics, but people. It is not about choices and preferences, but people.
And yes, AIDS is about people whom God made and wants to heal.