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At first glance, a comment this week from the head of the HIV/AIDS department of the World Health Organization seems to indicate that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is all but over. In an interview with London's Independent, Dr. Kevin De Cock said, "There will be no generalized epidemic of AIDS in the heterosexual population outside Africa."

Coming on the heels of the UNAIDS report in November 2007 that revised the estimates of those infected with HIV downward from 40 million to 33 million, one could conclude that HIV is no longer a humanitarian crisis.

Not so. As De Cock goes on to say, "AIDS still remains the leading infectious disease challenge in public health. It is an acute infection, but a chronic disease. It is for the very, very long haul. People are backing off, saying it is taking care of itself. It is not."

To me, the larger questions are not about numbers or categories — how many people are infected, or whether more homosexuals or heterosexuals are likely to become infected. The reasons I became an advocate for people with HIV six years ago are just as valid as they were then. Not much has changed.

I can think of several compelling reasons why the church of Jesus Christ must care about people with HIV and AIDS whether they're straight, gay, old, young, victim, victimizer, African, Asian, Indian, Latino, or Caucasian. The categories are irrelevant to our call to care.

The most important reason is for the church to care is that it is completely unexpected. When was the last time the church cared about a sexually transmitted disease? Historically, we haven't done a very good job of teaching healthy sex and sexuality, so it isn't surprising that we don't want to talk about HIV and AIDS.

You can't talk about HIV without talking ...

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Seriously Disturbed
Kay Warren, cofounder of Saddleback Church with her husband, Rick, is an international speaker and Bible teacher especially known for her work with those living with HIV and AIDS. She is the author of several books, including Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough and Dangerous Surrender (revised and republished as Say Yes to God). Her column on international social issues ran from 2008 to 2009.
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June 2008

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