AIDS and the BBC

Driving home in a gentle snowfall tonight, I was listening to the BBC World News report on the global AIDS crisis. I knew the disease had become a worldwide phenomenon in my lifetime. What I didn’t know was that the virus was only discovered 24 years ago. In that short time, it has now spread to affect over 40 million people.

Dealing with a crisis like this is not simple. It will surely take all sorts of education and funding and strategies. But to the commentator I was listening to, America’s strategy is just not tolerable. American foreign policy ties AIDS relief money directly to policies that promote abstinence and sexual fidelity. In other words, we don’t pay people to pass out condoms. We try to promote morally responsible sexual decisions.

The BBC commentator actually paused in mid-diatribe to say, “I’m sorry, the American approach just makes me so angry sometimes.” He was lauding the genius of the British plan to pass out condoms to everyone in the world. Next year, the British government will open the first-ever government-run condom factory to help combat AIDS.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but when 40 million people are dying, you’d think that an abstinence-driven policy would at least be welcomed on the field of debate. But, of course, the problem with such a policy is that it implies a moral code. It subtly states that having sex with anyone and everyone is less desirable (and less healthy) than abstinence or marital fidelity. And a world steeped in relativism cannot abide such narrow-minded thinking.

The British – or at least the Brit I was listening to – think that condom distribution without moral education is the most humane approach to the AIDS crisis. To them, the true humanist is the one who lets people do whatever they want – even if it kills them. Maybe I’m naïve, but humanists are supposed to care about humanity. And when 40 million humans have a terminal disease, it just might be time to take the socio-political “risk” of moral education.

But what do I know? I’m a narrow-minded American Christian.

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