There is a theological silence about the HIV/Aids pandemic. The probable reason for this silence is that it is ugly, relentless, ruthless and chaotic. The church and theologians are probably silent because they feel the secular world is dealing with the pandemic in a better way.
Maybe we are quiet because we are unable to handle death and sexuality constructively and openly, or maybe we are waiting for technology to save us.
It is theologically and morally imperative that the church responds to the crisis, and that it joins forces with other organisations. If we remain quiet, it would imply that God is irrelevant and offers no saving grace. When we consider theology about Aids, our thoughts must incorporate a theology of sexuality and biblical teaching.
The biblical teaching should not only refer to sexual behaviour, but it must also include grace and forgiveness, compassion and unity in suffering. Our theology about Aids must take in consideration the contributions of modern science and sociology. Our theology must advocate God’s involvement in the world and God’s concern for the marginalised, unprotected and vulnerable. The church must understand and be knowledgeable that Aids is not God’s penalty for sexual promiscuity. On the other hand, the church must not be quiet and speak against multiple sexual relationships.
According the Dube (2004:66), “HIV/Aids raises deep challenges about the meaning of life, our concepts of God, our understanding of church, human interdependence, human frailty, human failure, human sinfulness and human community”. In this chaos, we have to reflect and reconsider our theological starting point. For the church to really reflect theologically about HIV/Aids, we must consider seeing HIV/Aids through God’s eyes – and once we have achieved this, we would be in a position to the face the challenges of HIV/Aids.
“HIV/Aids is the new “site of struggle” against death and dehumanisation and, as with all true struggles, mere verbal and written theological constructions will not suffice” (Dube 2004:67). Dube (2004:67) further says that theology of Aids cannot be a book or pulpit theology. Theology of Aids must include the book, our brain and the pulpit. He stressed that our approach must be inclusive – more of a missionary, a disciple and caring approach taking action and be outspoken.
Gender and the powerlessness of women is key in a theology of HIV/Aids. The spreading of HIV amongst vulnerable women and children in our sub-continent is caused by poverty, the economy, traditions and culture (New Era, 14 April 2021).
Although some women are not HIV-positive, they must care for the infected, thereby affecting their lives. Thus, it can be concluded that the powerlessness of women in culture and tradition, economic conditions and religion has a direct impact on their vulnerability to HIV infection (Dube 2004:67)
According to Dube (2004: vii-xiii), there are two aspects that have transformed the epidemic from merely a health issue to a social issue that affects all aspect of human life.
Social injustices have a great effect on HIV/Aids. Where there is poverty, gender inequality, human-rights violation, child abuse, racism, ageism, sex-based discrimination violence, etc, HIV/Aids flourish (New Era, 26 July 2021). Anybody can be infected with the HIV virus but the most marginalised groups and the periphery are most vulnerable.
All aspects of our lives are affected by i.e culture, spiritual, economic, political, social and psychological factors. HIV/Aids makes individuals raise spiritual questions, asking questions like, where is God? Does God really care? Does God listen to our prayers? Why is God not healing us? Why does God punish us?
Therefore, HIV/Aids affects everything; every individual, institution, community, religion, discipline and ministry. We, as the church, are therefore challenged to address the following questions in the struggle against HIV/Aids:
How are we affected by HIV/Aids?
How can we become part of the solution?
How effective are we in our ministry with respect of HIV/Aids?
What can we implement to reduce the spread of HIV/Aids?
We are definitely faced with a new “liberation” (Dube 2004:68). The pandemic has developed into a crisis that has shaken the foundations of the church, families, communities, education, employment, religion and the pandemic calls for us to comment and utter words of comfort.
In conclusion, the church must become part of the solution by providing quality care, programs, training, counselling, education, etc. We must have the tools to face the epidemic, to become prophets in the valley of death and to undertake to teach our people about the dangers and consequences of HIV/Aids.
I leave you with the following view on HIV/Aids by the late President Kenneth D. Kaunda, Zambia’s founding President, “This is the biggest challenge for Africa. We must fight Aids and we must do so now.”