12 February, 2005

As if there weren't enough bad news already...

The Washington Post reports that a new strain of the HIV virus has surfaced in New York City. Further, it's not just "a new strain"; it's a superstrain.

I try really hard not to be judgmental in this weblog; God knows I'm bad enough about it in the hidden recesses of my mind. (I have, at least, the dubious virtue of being harsher towards myself than towards anyone else.) I also try to avoid these cultural issues that have caused so much division in our society.

Nevertheless, it was hard to write "dangerous" instead of "irresponsible." Six years ago I remember reading an article in the Post about a renewed fascination with, ah, "dangerous" sexual behaviors, especially among homosexuals. I don't want to use the term used in the Washington Post article of six years ago; suffice to say that this one word accurately described sexual relations without a condom. I remember thinking that this would lead to a bad end, and lo, here we are.

When asked by the reporter, Don't you realize that these behaviors are dangerous? the reply was, So what? there are drugs to treat AIDS, and insurance to pay for the drugs. I was astonished. I can't imagine a mindset that is quite content to host a deadly creature inside onself, to rob from others' wealth in order to subsidize one's own reckless behavior, even to disseminate
(Latin pun intended) this disease without regard to others' health. It's hard not to conclude that this sort of behavior is a perfect example of our need for a Savior — that is, our abject sinfulness. I make no claim to sanctity, and I realize we live in a world of relativism, but surely we can all agree that such behavior deserves unreserved contempt and unmitigated condemnation, while at the same time the people living such lives are in desperate need of divine grace and redemption. (NB: This is why I do not object per se to programs that try to bring homosexuals into the Church; I object rather to those that would embrace extramarital sex as "just another lifestyle choice." No. It is wrong, and there are reasons that it is wrong.)

Now we find the fruits of this behavior: a superstrain of AIDS in a man who has had unprotected sex with "several" other men. We don't even know how many, and he probably doesn't even know their names. How immensely depressing — and it only makes page A20 of the Post. This ought to be front-page news, to wake people from their moral torpor. Homosexuals are hardly the only ones living dangerously, under the belief that medicines will soften the blow, and the false hope that a cure is coming Real Soon Now.

Fiteen or twenty years ago, when AIDS was a hot political topic, I remember telling my high school friends that I didn't think a vaccine would appear anytime soon, if ever. My pessimism followed from reading that AIDS behaves like the common cold, mutating frequently, sometimes from host to host. This is one reason there is no vaccine for the common cold.

Well, here we are, fifteen or twenty years later. As I understand it, the best that we've come up with are several failed vaccine attempts and a cocktail of antiviral treatments that lessen the effect. (If anyone knows otherwise, please do not hesitate to correct me!)

This superstrain is resistant to the cocktail — and it starts to develop into full-blown AIDS in months, rather than the years that the milder strains took.

I've read that there are some new technologies in development, thanks to research on viruses. This is a wonderful thing, and it leaves room for hope — but what sort of hope will it be? A hope that we can apply these treatments not only to AIDS, but to other viral infections? or a false hope that we can return to the days of dangerous behavior, believing the lies about love?

This weblog is starting to lose sight of heaven. I need to start posting hymn translations again.

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