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... to do what and with which and to whom

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 09, 2006

[AIDS] is not stopped by our best intentions or even by marriage. Each person must take responsibility for knowing their HIV status and making sure that others who may be affected also know their status. Such honesty in relationships is a witness to the radical and self-giving love which is daily required of us.

It is too easy to assume that HIV is something which infects someone else and not us. That is the first step that leads to stigma. I pay tribute to those church leaders who have courageously brought their HIV+ status to the attention of their communities and the public and those church leaders who support them.

Make sense to you? That's the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, in his World AIDS Day address, delivered ten days after he pledged to "stand together" with the Catholic Church to "protect the sanctity of marriage."

Like all AIDS Awareness instruction, the Archbishop's statement is a specimen of disinformation. It is designed not to clarify but to open the door to falsehood by inviting misinterpretation. Study the masterfully bewildering syntax of this sentence: "AIDS is not stopped by our best intentions or even by marriage." Whaddaya mean "our," Cantuar-sabe? Whose intentions are engaged, and in what act of deliberation? Are we talking about what the grandma in the pew intends to do with her alms, or what the bureaucrat intends to do with his health policy, or rather what the man in the brothel intends to do with his sexual organs? What claim implied by the words "or even by marriage" is coherent enough to be meaningfully deniable? Clearly we're not meant to ask. The problem with AIDS is that the facts are known too well, whence the goal of AIDS Awareness is to pretend that prevention is not within the will of every sane adult not in a state of serfdom.

Or take the sentence that follows: "Each person must take responsibility for knowing their HIV status and making sure that others who may be affected also know their status." Decoded, this is a plug for the Johansson Protocol ...

"I get tested for HIV twice a year. One has to be socially aware. It's part of being a decent human to be tested for STDs. It's just disgusting behaviour when people don't. It's so irresponsible."

... but it is couched in decorously equivocal phraseology. Read at face value, Williams is urging HIV-negative dentists to hang a banner announcing the happy fact in their waiting rooms ("You don't get it from this doc, folks!"), and urging HIV-positive persons to declare their seropositivity to prospective surgeons, ear-piercers, tattoo artists, and rugby opponents ("Glove up: I got the juice."). Yet we all know Williams would join in the outcry denouncing such proposals were they advanced in public. Again, the purpose is to mystify.

"It is too easy to assume that HIV is something which infects someone else and not us." Right, Archbishop, we are all at risk -- all of us, that is, in the habit of exchanging bodily fluids with strangers. Of course the last point plays no part in AIDS Awareness because it indicates the wrong sort of awareness, i.e., how AIDS is really transmitted and how doable it is to put oneself outside the chain of transmission. That's why it's needful to pay tribute to the "courage" of those HIV-positive church leaders who presumably contracted the disease from a public baptismal font. The photo of the (Patriotic?) Chinese nuns below, cheerily doing their own modest bit for the cause, was displayed on the Church Times site to illustrate its article on Williams' statement. We all get the point: AIDS is not stopped by our best intentions, so let's wrap our worst intentions in a smile.

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Show 9 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Dec. 13, 2006 5:23 PM ET USA

    Anyone with a terminal disease, no matter the manner of afflication, should have our sympathy, and I wonder about those who would not feel saddened upon hearing the news of anyone's HIV positive status. I have no idea what causes SSA, and I'm sure the Church does not either, but I cannot bring myself to condemn anyone who succumbs to his omnipresent temptations. Rather, and not to moralize, would it not leave us in better stead when we meet Christ to be judged to have prayed in such instances?

  • Posted by: Janet Baker - Dec. 12, 2006 6:31 PM ET USA

    Ladybird, I absolutely agree with your statement. My point was that no one should make a blanket statement to say that innocent people are not at risk, and not to completely dismiss what Williams has to say about the danger that AIDS poses to the general public.

  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 12, 2006 11:23 AM ET USA

    Since it can happen to an innocent party, it is all the more important to condemn the lifestyle that brings it. If an innocent spouse contracts from an adulterous spouse - still someone has been irresponsible and it is not the party that didn't get tested twice a year! It's the one who engaged in the causal behaviour (sexual or drug use). Exposing an innocent spouse, or child in the womb, or neighbor at the blood bank, to the virus is not just irresponsible - it's downright criminal.

  • Posted by: Janet Baker - Dec. 11, 2006 8:29 PM ET USA

    "It is too easy to assume that HIV is something which infects someone else and not us." Right, Archbishop, we are all at risk -- all of us, that is, in the habit of exchanging bodily fluids with strangers. Let's take care here. It is possible and it does happen to innocent people: the recipient of a contaminated transfusion - the innocent spouse of an adulterer (or simply someone who had a wild past) - a child of an HIV mother. Some folks do get it through no fault of their own.

  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 11, 2006 5:39 PM ET USA

    It's been a long time (35+ years) since I was a young innocent bent on marriage and rushing to get the license. Blood tests required, first, of course. Do they still require the blood tests? Wasn't that meant to give the parties to the marriage contract the opportunity for real "informed" consent? Tho HIV/AIDS wasn't known at the time - myriad other STD's were. Young as we were, we sure knew how to avoid them - JUST SAY NO! "Responsible behaviour", indeed! Who's she kidding!?

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Dec. 10, 2006 8:32 PM ET USA

    Amen, Diogenes. Doctor Williams is showing his true colors, but, as you point out, Williams does so with a lot of disinformation and equivocal phraseology... He seems to be more a diplomat for the gay subculture than a "church" leader. (Also, "Gil" makes a good point.)

  • Posted by: Laity1 - Dec. 10, 2006 2:02 AM ET USA

    Three points here: 1) "such honesty" is the benchmark of self-giving love? 2) "presumption" is the first step of stigma - not the stigmatizing behavior? 3) the nuns are carrying home large strings of firecrackers and that's why they're smiling?

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Dec. 09, 2006 10:08 PM ET USA

    Methinks he doth equivocate too much.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Dec. 09, 2006 3:11 PM ET USA

    Twenty or so years ago I covered a news conference on the then-new subject of AIDS by Dr. Mervyn Silverman, who has since made a career of it. He wanted to get out the message that "gays" who had sex in bath houses should do so only with condoms. I asked why, if they were afraid of AIDS, they didn't just quit having sex in bath houses. He stared at me for a few moments, said nothing, and went on to the next question. The other reporters were, by the way, on his side.

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