HIV, AIDS, and You: The Facts / Session Titles
Some Questions . . . Some Answers
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
It is a incurable disease that attacks the immune system, leaving the body defenseless to illnesses that it could normally fight off: flu, pneumonia, meningitis, extremely rare types of cancer, etc..
I also hear people talking about HIV. What’s that?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the name of the virus that causes AIDS. There is no vaccine or way to kill the virus once it is in your body.
How do you get HIV?
By far, the two most common ways to get HIV are by having sex, or by sharing needles and/or syringes to inject illegal drugs with someone who is infected with the virus.
HIV can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy.
HIV has also been transmitted through blood transfusions. This is extremely rare since scientists have developed special tests to detect HIV in blood.
Can you get HIV from shaking hands, hugging, kissing, sneezing, or eating food prepared by people who are infected with HIV? How about from toilet seats, door knobs or insect bites?
There are no known cases of anyone getting the disease in any of these ways or any type of casual contact.
Can you get HIV from the Communion spoon?
As an Orthodox Christian we believe that Communion is the Body and Blood of our Lord and God Jesus Christ that is given to us that we might have eternal life in Him. For that reason we believe that no one could ever get anything harmful from the Chalice or the spoon.
In addition, in the 2000+ year history of the Church, there are no known cases of anyone getting this or any other disease this way. Studies have been done that have shown that the metallic spoon, the alcohol in Communion, and the hot water all act as antiseptics preventing the spread of disease and viruses.
Can you tell if someone has HIV/AIDS by looking at them?
NO. There is no way to tell by looking at a person whether or not he or she has HIV or AIDS!
Very often people who have AIDS or who are infected with HIV look like perfectly healthy people, just like you and me.
Most people get HIV because the person that they are having sex or doing drugs with doesn’t even realize that they are infected. Symptoms sometimes don’t appear until up to 15 years after the person became infected. A mistake you make at 15 can kill you at thirty!
How can I protect myself from getting HIV/AIDS?
The only 100% effective way of making sure you don’t get HIV is by not sharing needles for intravenous (IV) drugs and by postponing sex until you are married, and then remaining faithful to your spouse. Every other alternative, even using condoms, leaves you gambling with your life.
What does the Church say about HIV/AIDS?
· The Church teaches that only sex inside of marriage is healthy and appropriate (Rom. 1:24-27, 1Cor 6:9-11, 1Tim 1:8-11).
· The Church teaches that it is sinful to use illicit drugs ( 1Peter 4:1-6).
· The Church, however, follows Jesus’ example and teaches that we must love and be compassionate toward all people who are sick and in need (Matt 25:31-46), including people with HIV/AIDS.
It is our responsibility to treat people with HIV/AIDS just like Jesus would: not approving of the sinful behavior, but loving the sinner!
AIDS scares all of us. Many of us know people who are infected with or who have died from the disease. While some of us may not yet have been touched by the disease and others of us may think that this is not an issue the Church needs to address, all of us fear that it may come crashing into our lives.
This discussion guide is one response to a growing problem that exists within our Church. Entire Orthodox villages in Alaska have become infected with the HIV virus, and instances of AIDS in our Canadian and US parishes are on the rise. The discussion guide is designed to be used with pre-teens and teens as one way of showing our young people that the Church a) is vitally concerned with these types of problems in the “real world,” b) has something to say about the issue that we as Orthodox Christians need to know, and c) constantly challenges us to find Christ as we deal with our problems. Remember: pre-teens quickly become teens and young people make life-changing decisions every day!
Gathering the Facts — a general introduction which assumes that participants know something about the subject but doesn’t depend on their knowledge.
Making Positive Choices — a discussion about reasons to avoid and methods of avoiding high risk behaviors.
HIV Positive: the Untouchables? — a discussion about the Christian and compassionate treatment of people infected with HIV.
Before discussing this issue, make sure that participants have a correct, and therefore positive, understanding of Christian sexuality. Be careful to avoid the temptation of presenting sex simply as a bad thing, rather than discussing it as a special and sacred way God has given a husband and a wife to express their love for each other.
Also, look through the fact sheet and procedures outlined before you meet. As you plan, remember that pre-teens appreciate an active approach and teens respond well to direct, honest discussion. Avoid lecturing and preaching! Remember we need to express that the Church has something valuable to say, not simply that it wants to “tell us what to and not to do!”
A large visible writing surface (conference pad, chalkboard, butcher paper taped to the wall, etc.)
Reality Check (about 40 minutes)
Tell participants that today you are going to talk about HIV/AIDS, us, and the Church. Invite everyone to call out or write down what they assume are facts about HIV/AIDS and write them down on the visible writing surface.
NOTE: If you have enough participants, split them into two or more groups, and, with the writing surface a distance from them, do this as a relay. Each group lines up with persons running to the “board”, writing one idea down, and then running back and “handing off” the marker. Give them 5-10 minutes to come up with as many facts as possible. Repeat this exercise asking them to call out or write down what they think the Church has to say about HIV/AIDS. When all ideas are exhausted, hand out the AIDS Facts Sheet. Give each group 3 or 4 minutes to read through the sheet and revise their list as they want to.
When everyone is finished, discuss the following:
How many of you have talked about HIV and AIDS at school? How many of you have talked about HIV/AIDS with your friends? With your parents? At Church?
What ideas did you have about HIV and AIDS that weren’t factual? Where did you get the incorrect information?
What incorrect ideas did you have about the Church’s position? Now that you are more informed, what do you think of the Church’s teaching?
Give participants Divine Liturgy books and Bibles with concordances. Explain what a concordance is and how to use it. Ask, “Look through the Bible and Divine Liturgy for any words or phrases that you think relate to the topic of AIDS.” Tell them they can look up the Bible citations mentioned in the Fact Sheet. These may lead them to others.
Be sure to allow for discussion. The goal of this session is to evaluate their perceptions about HIV/AIDS and the Church and begin the process of clarifying them. Be sure to draw on these responses during future sessions.