Just how widespread is HIV infection among adolescents? Officials wish they knew. But the number of teens who have actually developed AIDS has increased by more than 70 percent since 1989, making that syndrome the sixth-leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 24.
Given such grim data, more evangelicals are challenging Christian leaders and denominational officials toward action, accuracy, and compassion in combating transmission of HIV.
“If we don’t know the truth, how can we as a Christian community respond appropriately to what will become the social issue of the nineties?” asks popular youth worker Josh McDowell.
Joining McDowell in urging greater Christian involvement is prominent AIDS researcher Robert Redfield, chief of retroviral research at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, D.C. Earlier this summer Redfield led a Washington briefing on teens and AIDS. The meeting was cosponsored by the Josh McDowell Ministry and Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy (ASAP), an education and service group.
Redfield attacked current HIV prevention efforts that emphasize “safer sex” practices among adolescents and others. “Condoms aren’t safer; they’re dangerous at best,” he told the 117 Christian leaders gathered for the meeting. He cited a 3 to 20 percent failure rate of condoms. “ ‘Take a risk that could destroy your life’: that’s the double message we’re giving kids.” Rather, Redfield called on Christians to teach sexual responsibility and attack the “myth of the valueless message” that accepts any sexual behavior in any setting. He called “bidirectional monogamy” the soundest medical policy and one that could “stop this epidemic in its tracks.”
Teens with multiple sexual partners face the greatest ...1
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