AIDS—How Will It End?
“I’M COMPLETELY convinced that we definitely will have a vaccine within this decade.”—Jorg Eichberg, head of vaccine research at Wyeth-Ayerst Research Center, Philadelphia, U.S.A.
Imagine if a cure, or even a preventive vaccine, was found for AIDS. How wonderful that would be! For the 9,000 AIDS specialists who gathered in Florence, Italy, last year under the theme “Science Challenging AIDS,” the quest for such a cure was no doubt uppermost in their minds.
As 9 out of 10 new infections now take place in the developing world, the pressure to find an effective solution is on. Yet, according to the journal New Scientist, many at the Florence conference seemed to have “lost their sense of urgency.” “Perhaps,” suggests the journal, the disaster is so overwhelming that many “had simply abandoned the problem.”
The harsh reality is that scientists are running into more questions than answers. New Scientist explains that “10 years into the epidemic, the problems facing virologists and immunologists look almost as great as ever.” British AIDS clinician Ian Weller cautioned: “The Star Wars of antiviral therapy is not around the corner.”
But if an anti-AIDS vaccine did become available, how accessible would it be? Dr. Dennis Sifris, a practitioner with firsthand experience of the realities of working in Africa, explains: “We have a highly effective vaccine for TB [tuberculosis] so in theory TB should have been eradicated [as is the case with] measles and Hepatitis B. Yet those three diseases are . . . major killers in Africa today. So even if a vaccine is developed accessibility to people is a major problem.”
With little hope for a cure, Africa’s only option has been to persuade people to change their sexual behavior. But the question is—how?
The Standard Response
The standard response to solving AIDS in Africa is to hand out condoms, condoms, and more condoms. Truckers get them free at border posts. Newspapers issue them in envelopes. Clinics and health workers stock them in the millions.
While such measures may have some impact on the spread of AIDS, they are not without their problems—especially in Africa. Health worker Stefan van der Borght of Medecins Sans Frontieres in Angola explained that if you give out three million condoms, it looks good. But that means that one and a half million men can only make love twice before the supplies run out.
Besides, apart from the logistic complications, what effect does the indiscriminate distribution of condoms have on promiscuity—the very fountainhead of AIDS in Africa? All indications are that such measures stimulate rather than dampen sexual activity. Even governmental authorities are starting to recognize this fact. One African country has already instructed its State-run media to withdraw condom advertisements, since they encourage promiscuous behavior. Author Keith Edelston takes it one step further in his book Aids—Countdown to Doomsday: “In view of the risks . . . inherent in the use of condoms, it is quite clear that strict monogamy is the only way to be completely safe.”
But is a return to monogamous morality within the marriage structure a realistic option?
An End to AIDS
“If people stopped sleeping around tomorrow,” states Professor Reuben Sher, an expert on AIDS in Africa, “the virus would die out. The people who have it would die and that would be it.” Similarly, an editorial in The Star, a newspaper published in Johannesburg, South Africa, states that “for somebody who does not sleep around or share needles or have blood transfusions, [HIV] is a very difficult virus to pick up.”
Right now, over 450,000 Witnesses of Jehovah in Africa are avoiding those very things. They firmly believe that morality based on the Bible is worth it. Consider their reasoning: Since the Creator, Jehovah God, made humans, then his code of conduct for human behavior is logically worth taking note of. The principle recorded at Hebrews 13:4 is a good example: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement.” Rather than feeling deprived of enjoyment, those who have applied such scriptures have spared themselves much physical and emotional trauma.—Compare Acts 15:29; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:3-5.
Interestingly, the media have often commented favorably on the morals of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Africa: “[They] have shown themselves . . . to be decent, orderly citizens living up to a high moral code,” stated the Daily Telegraph of London, England. It added: “The promiscuity and polygamy characteristic of African society is simply inconceivable among Witnesses.” Similarly, the author of the book Contemporary Transformations of Religion, Bryan Wilson, comments that “in African society, Witnesses . . . become exceptional people” and that “the effect of [their] . . . code of morals is evident among them.”
This is not to say that Jehovah’s Witnesses are totally insulated from the effects of AIDS. Some have become infected by spouses who do not subscribe to the same Christian principles that they do, and others contracted the disease before becoming Witnesses. Also, a few have chosen to lapse back into the loose moral ways of today’s world, and a small number of these have contracted AIDS as part of the fruitage of their ways. (Galatians 6:7) However, those who willfully pursue an immoral life-style have also lost their privilege of remaining in the Christian congregation. (1 Corinthians 5:13; 6:9, 10) But by far the majority of the more than four million Witnesses of Jehovah around the globe enjoy the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being that results from adhering to the Creator’s principles on morality.
Happily, the Bible indicates that a lasting solution to scourges like AIDS is in sight. (Revelation 21:1-4) Jehovah God promises a new world from which all the immoral causes of diseases such as AIDS will be entirely removed. There will be no such thing as an innocent sufferer, since everyone will pursue upright, healthy life-styles that promote true happiness.—Isaiah 11:9; 2 Peter 3:13.
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“We do not need to spend billions on research and development . . . We need a return to morality.”—Dr. Mark Hendricks, South African immunologist
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Strict monogamy is an important way to avoid the plague of AIDS
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God promises a new world entirely free from diseases such as AIDS