Since 1981, at least 25 million people have died of AIDS, and 11.6 AIDS orphans in Africa alone have been left as a legacy of this devastating epidemic. Although there has been a slight decline in deaths in recent years, 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS/WHO. It's believed that many of these people will eventually die of the disease, which continues to claim lives at a rate of two million a year. At this point, there is no medical cure, although some progress has been made.
Those numbers may seem to be merely statistics unless you know someone with the disease, but the economic effects, particularly in parts of Africa, are enormous. Women tend to be the ones who raise food for the family. If a woman dies, she leaves behind her babies as well as empty fields, which are not ready for harvest. Hunger and desperation may drive her daughter to prostitution in order to survive, and thus become a potential victim. Other parts of society are also affected, such as the loss of young, well-educated professionals, whose skills are especially vital in developing economies.
Those who have the disease have been persecuted because of ignorance and fear, and often AIDS has been treated as a divine judgment on people's lifestyles. Its name describes its effect: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The individual's natural defenses against disease are wiped out, thus making him or her vulnerable to other sicknesses.
While AIDS may seem to render one vulnerable to the influence of any disease, there is a power that can renew one's spiritual strength and open the way to progress in dealing with this sickness. It is the Christ, the spiritual impetus of Jesus' healing mission. It enabled him to perceive more clearly than any other person Love's healing and restorative power for all who desired to be free. Jesus' conviction of God's power remained unshaken even in the face of death.
Sometimes his enemies criticized him for his willingness to help all people, to touch the untouchables, but at one point he explained, "I came not to judge the world, but to save the world" (John 12:47). That healing, saving power of the Christ is still here today, through the Science discovered and articulated by Mary Baker Eddy.
Mrs. Eddy practiced Christian healing, and was a keen observer of her times. She kept track of other systems of thought – religious and medical. From this, and from her own experience, she also knew that to look for answers in the material realm would not lead to healing. She wrote, "We must look deep into realism instead of accepting only the outward sense of things" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 129).
This realism includes the spiritual facts that override any claim of disease: first, the man and woman of God's creating are spiritual and have never been material. It follows that there has never been a predisposition to a disease or to behavior that might – according to pervasive belief – make one vulnerable to sickness. Second, matter and Spirit never interconnect. There is no point at which disease could attach itself to a spiritual idea, lie dormant, and then destroy life. Since Spirit is omnipresent, there is no place where disease could develop or exist. While there are theories about where and how AIDS arose, the spiritual fact is that it hasn't come from anywhere. It has no source, because it was never created by divine Spirit. This approach is a radical shift from the way that AIDS has been thought of within the world community, but it is the only way to remove the foundation of material beliefs that have been built around it.
This is not to ignore the claims associated with AIDS. For the one suffering from the sickness, there may be a need to look more deeply into the reality of God and of one's relation to Him. Past lifestyles cannot impinge on a growing knowledge that one is spiritual and has committed to living in accord with divine Love. Even the stickiest substance can't adhere to one's hand if one truly desires to remove it. The one who wishes to experience the deep realism of unity with divine Love and all its care can be cleansed of the past and move forward. Those assisting this individual can also accept, with certainty, that divine Love embraces and protects all who are striving to see the presence of the healing Christ in their midst. Material beliefs are not transferable when one maintains clarity about one's own spiritual nature – and the unreality of the disease. This is the deep realism that protects and heals.
Proving these points may take much spiritual commitment, but Science and Health has these encouraging words: "Imperfect mortals grasp the ultimate of spiritual perfection slowly; but to begin aright and to continue the strife of demonstrating the great problem of being, is doing much" (p. 254).
Each time someone makes a commitment to pray about AIDS on a regular basis or to strive toward a clearer grasp of the nothingness of disease, he or she is "doing much."
Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.