The international AIDS crisis has been called the greatest health calamity since the Black Plague of the Middle Ages. It has claimed the lives of more than 20 million people, 80 percent of them Africans. In the southern African countries of Botswana and Zimbabwe, more than 25 percent of the adult population have HIV/AIDS, mostly through heterosexual transmission. Our world is reeling from an incurable disease.

And yet a new survey by Barna Research shows that Americans have little understanding of the threat of AIDS and, more important, little desire to be a part of the solution. The survey also revealed something that should shock us: an evangelical Christian is no more likely to support AIDS-related causes than a non-Christian.

The survey of 1,003 American adults revealed 8 percent of non-Christians were certain they would donate to help AIDS orphans, compared with 7 percent of evangelical Christians. The 92 percent majority gave a variety of reasons for withholding their support, from the lack of money to the feeling that Americans should be focused on solving America's problems first.

It gets worse. A scant 3 percent of evangelicals said they would definitely give for AIDS education and prevention, compared with 8 percent of non-Christians.

Why the evangelical reluctance on this issue?

Perhaps part of the reason is that many simply don't realize the magnitude of the problem: In Africa alone, more than 9 million children under age 15 have been left without a mother and father because of HIV/AIDS. Some, of course, might be passing judgment on those who are HIV/AIDS patients, quietly rationalizing, "Isn't it their own fault?"

It's also hard to feel deeply about something thousands of miles away. Then again, who among us would ...

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