The latest UNAIDS report places the number of adults and children living with HIV currently at 36.9 million people and the amount of adults and children newly infected at 3.9 million. With such depressing statistics haunting countries worldwide one would think that conservative Evangelicals taking up the cause of HIV/AIDS prevention might be seen as a blessing. Such a blessing should be viewed with a considerable grain of skepticism, however, when examining their history with HIV/AIDS, their archaic prevention policies and recent comments by their most fundamentalist over Pastor Rick Warren's speaker invite of pro-choice Senator Barrack Obama to an Evangelical event observing World AIDS Day.
It's frightening that conservative Evangelicals are now taking up the cause of HIV/AIDS prevention. Such an epiphany on their part emphasizes how even the most ignorant can no longer ignore its effects. Icons like Phyllis Schlafly, those closest to its history, must be scrambling to revise their role in the genesis of this epidemic. How else could they rationalize their new white savior role from their more antagonistic role in the 80's when they stigmatized the disease as a 'gay plague?'
Had conservative Evangelicals not alienated the infected, perverting the scope of discussion away from treatment and prevention, heterosexuals and minorities might have been more aware of the threat the initial outbreak posed to them and taken greater precaution in preventing today's epidemic. Had conservative Evangelicals and the Reagan administration responded to the alert of Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and the role condoms could play in disease prevention instead of stonewalling it and pushing for his resignation, realistic sexual education, research, and HIV/AIDS prevention measures could have been enacted here in the U.S. and then adopted worldwide. This is not to imply that they have done a complete one-eighty today, as evidenced on World AIDS Day, old habits are hard to break.
Obama's recent invitation to speak at a church event in observance of World Aids Day brought forth a furor of condemnation from fundamentalists. Schlafly, older but undoubtedly not wiser from her days of sending care packages to Nicaraguan death squads ('New for the Holidays: The Eagle Forum's Contra Kits', Washington Post December 10, 1985), stated, "If Senator Obama cannot defend the most helpless citizens [unborn fetuses] in our country, he has nothing to say to the AIDS crisis."
The truth is conservative Evangelicals 'have nothing to say to the AIDS crisis.' They would first need to confront their homophobia, racism, sexism and temper their greed for political power. They would need to exercise humility and do what's best for the sexual health of humanity by supporting condoms and other preventative measures supported by science, instead of selfishly enforcing dogma with their sole promotion of abstinence. Until then, they can never contribute solutions to this epidemic. How can they when they are a major part of the problem?