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Elementary principles

"Elementary principles" Continued...

Issue: "The GOP's Latino outreach," Sept. 28, 2002

Not everyone in the Christian AIDS relief community finds that approach satisfactory. Etambuyu Imasiku said under such instruction she was "safe in the condom" when she dated and had sex with a man for two years. She later discovered she was pregnant-and HIV positive. She disagrees with AIDS workers who say churches should allow nonmarital condom use.

"They want us to package the abstinence message with the condom message, but they contradict themselves," said Ms. Imasiku, now a Christian AIDS counselor. "We are not forcing people to abstain, but we are offering it as an alternative. The message is the message of truth. If you tell people the truth, they're better equipped to make the right decision."

"The whole problem of AIDS is a moral issue. The UN is trying to make it an amoral issue," said Happy Ngoma, pastor of Riverside Chapel. "When we say abstinence is the answer, we are saying the person first needs to have the fear of God before his eyes. My own opinion is that hospitals should have pictures of people with STDs [sexually transmitted diseases]. The sight of a person infected with an STD is enough of a deterrent."

Three-fourths of the world's AIDS sufferers live in Africa. Of 3 million AIDS deaths worldwide in 2000, 2.4 million were in Africa. While promiscuous homosexual activity is the leading form of transmission in the United States, in Africa heterosexual sex is the primary mode of transmission. The disease is also transmitted from mother to child. Up to 110,000 people ages 15 to 49 died of AIDS last year in Zambia, according to the UN. There are now about 572,000 AIDS orphans in the country.

Without urgent attention to the AIDS epidemic, other attempts to jumpstart development in Africa could flounder. The New Partnership for Africa's Development, or NEPAD, is the latest, touted last week at the new UN General Assembly session in opening remarks by Secretary General Kofi Annan as well as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

NEPAD is an Africa-led strategy to attract foreign investment, as opposed to begging direct foreign aid, for long-term development. The United States has already pledged to increase foreign assistance by 50 percent to "developing nations that are governed wisely and fairly," Mr. Powell told UN delegates. Mr. Annan stated and Mr. Powell reiterated that AIDS "has become the greatest threat to Africa's development." Heavily infected countries stand to lose up to 20 percent of GDP due to the disease as overall life expectancy rates drop, breadwinners die, and public spending on health care rises.

"The Bible does not say the problems of this world will finish in the here and now," said Mr. Ngoma. "They will only come to an end with the new heaven and earth. We help those who are victims and give them the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

It's a hope that Ms. Imasiku found when she learned she was HIV positive.

"If I wasn't a Christian I don't know what would have happened to me," she said. "I was suicidal. I need to go on. I need to warn other people of the dangers."

-Ms. Abraham is a World Journalism Institute fellow

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