Saturday, March 12, 2005

PS: On Moving on beyond the "blame the churches" debate
GEM March 12, 2005

Regrettably, at the 2000, 2002 and 2004 International AIDS conferences, there was a tendency to blame the churches [and advocates of the ABC approach who stress the importance of morally-driven behaviour change as the key to the HIV crisis] for contributing to the spread of HIV AIDS, to the point where some seminars have deteriorated into mere religion-bashing. This sad and unnecessary development includes a now notorious presentation by Mr Martin Gunter of the Jamaica Red Cross (who was then a member of Jamaica's HIV Advisory Committee and Chairman of the Caribbean Regional AIDS Network, CARAN) at the 2000 Durban, South Africa XIIIth International AIDS Conference.

The resulting rebuttals by University of Technology Lecturer and Communications Consultant Mr Martin Henry and by church leaders are well worth reflecting on, as is Mr Gunter's unfortunately disingenuous response to these well-deserved rebukes.

Unfortunately, too, some of the acrimony of this regional and international debate has now come here; as was manifested by a regrettable ZJB news item presented on the evening of Fri March 11, 2005 which excerpted some rather sharp remarks by a Let's Talk guest panelist on March 2nd that echo Mr Gunter's perspectives. Even more unfortunately, these remarks were reported without reference to the broader context of the programme and the next session on March 9th as discussed above (and to which the station had prior access, including having print and audio copies of Rev. Seale's remarks at the CONECAR, as had been featured in the LT programme on Wed 9th -- one hardly needs to underscore the audience differences between a talk show and the Evening News!).

This sad, and undesirable development underscores the point that it is high time for us to move on beyond the blame game and face what Mr Henry aptly called "[t]he cold truth":

"The cold truth which the AIDS industry, Marvin Gunter, and the rest of us must soberly confront is that, barring a scientific or divine miracle, this most dreadful pandemic is set to run its devastating epidemiological course, which has been already determined by past human choices. If not divine judgement, AIDS certainly is largely a consequence of anti-Christian sexual behaviour . . . . The surest protection for the uninfected individual is chastity and fidelity. Whatever else it may do by way of response to the crisis, the Church, in the teeth of antagonism sharpened by desperation, must preach this loudly and clearly without compromise but with the spirit of compassion and practical care for those already fallen ­ in the manner of Jesus her Head and Exemplar."

Let us heed this call to truth-based, morally sound, compassionate action in the spirit of Jn 7:53 - 8:11. END

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