• 61°

Christians and the AIDS epidemic

During the reign of the Roman Empire, Alexandria, Egypt was a hot spot for religious persecution against Christians in the third century. Leaders of the city made sure that those who expressed their Christian faith were silenced forever.

It all changed when an illness devastated the city. Men, women and children became stricken with the mysterious disease and were kicked out of their homes due to the fear that their loved ones had of being infected. Even the leaders of Alexandria grew concerned about the illness, and they left.

It seemed all hope was lost for many people in that city. However, Christians decided that something had to be done. Instead of waving fingers of condemnation, they decided to go to the sick (even those who were persecutors) and took care of them, even to the point of illness and death.

People in and outside of Alexandria saw what was going on, and they marveled at the dedication, the love and the charity the Christians had shown towards those who were ill and at the point of death.

They believed and understood what Jesus meant when he talked about “the least of these.” As a result, Christianity was accepted and embraced by the city, and it expanded throughout the known world. Many historians know this event as the Alexandrian Plague.

Hundreds of years later, another event happened. In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, a mysterious disease caused some healthy individuals to suddenly die, and no one knew what was causing the illness. This disease became known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus.

It was discovered that the majority those were infected were gay men. As a result, AIDS became known as the “gay disease.”

Instead of following what the early Christians practiced when the Alexandrian Plague hit, many Christians of that time waved fingers of condemnation at the afflicted, whether they were straight or gay, and they concluded that the disease was a curse from God. There was no compassion and no hope for those who became ill.

Now, I feel that we are paying for what we didn’t do back then. I feel that many people have lost their trust in God because they did not see the God in us when the AIDS epidemic hit.

I wonder what happened between those two incidents. We Christians seemed to forget what it meant when Jesus said to serve the least of these and to be a light to this dark world.

We sometimes forget that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came and gave healing to the 10 lepers, when everyone else avoided them.

We raise millions of dollars on research and cures for cancer, diabetes and heart disease, but when it comes to AIDS, our money and our efforts are chiefly directed to AIDS orphans.

It’s not too late for Christians to help fight the AIDS epidemic. It is time that we Christians put aside our pride and our self-righteousness and show compassion to those who are infected with the disease.

We must look at people with AIDS just as Christ looked at the 10 lepers, with compassion and a willingness to help.

Kenya Smith is a Suffolk native and recent graduate from Regent University. Email her at kenysmi@mail.regent.edu.