The Fight Against AIDS
Handing out condoms to teenagers and young adults is not an efficient way to stop the spread of AIDS. Studies show that condoms are used less often as the number of instances of sexual encounters increase. It is rather by developing responsible behavior and ethics about love that we will have the best defense in stopping this disease.
The Church fights AIDS by building an ethic about love. She talks about the beauty of human love. It is the Pope and not a popular singer who has said: "Man can not live without love... his life is without meaning if he does not come to know love, if he does not have this experience" (Familiaris Consortio #18). The Church also says that sexual relations are inseparable from love and it does not have much meaning if it is accompanied by a attitudes of mistrust or self-protection. Wouldn't it be strange to say: "I love you, I give myself completely to you... but I'm afraid, I'll protect myself..."
The French bishops have spoken about AIDS on a number of occasions. They are well aware of the difficult situations and the suffering that accompanies it. They said: "Prophylactic means (of prevention) exist, but it is debatable that, on their own, they can prevent AIDS". (Jan. 9,1989). Cardinal Decourtray and Cardinal Lustiger have said clearly: "Don't give death" because "the respect of the health and life of others is an essential moral value".
As for the sick and the "HIV-positive", those who have the disease without showing any symptoms, the Church welcomes them and fights against their social exclusion. For example, there are centers for them in Paris (Tiberiade) and Lyons, and health care services for them in hospitals, like the Jeanne Garnier service in Paris. Mother Teresa has houses for those suffering from AIDS in New York, Washington, San Francisco, London and Madrid.
To conclude, the Church is for Love and Life. She suggests a strategy for prevention that is more efficient over time than the condom and more worthy of love. It is worth our while to try to understand!
Michael and John , you are 26 and 28 years old. Can you tell us how you became HIV positive?
Michael : I had a chaotic life. It all began when I was 16 and my family moved. All of a sudden, I lost everything that made up my life: my friends, my activities,etc. I became depressed. I began to have trouble relating to my parents and I cut myself off from everyone. Then I left the house and moved to Paris. I started going to bars, saunas, and I met homosexuals and lost control.
John : Me, too, I left my family behind to go and work at a ski resort. I met a girl there who lived in Paris. I fell in love with her and wanted to go out with her. We started living together. But I was a person who wanted to know everything about life. Prior to this I had met some tranvestites on the French Riviera and spent some evenings talking and smoking with them. And then, one day, I had a homosexual encounter.
When I got to Paris, I would go to night-clubs. And then, as I always wanted to go further than the others, one night, I went to the Bois de Boulogne. I was half drunk when I met some transvestites who invited me to go to their apartment. We continued to drink and then had sex. I think that is where it happened.
What was your reaction when you found out?
Michael : For me, it was a huge shock. I had been thinking that I needed to change my lifestyle but I kept losing control. I thought that because I could do anything, I was free. I realized that this imaginary freedom was going to lead me to death.
John : Fortunately my girl friend really loves me and we did not break up. But I cut myself off from everyone, I had no work, I would spend hours at home doing nothing. One day in the doctor's waiting room I saw a flyer for the Tiberiade Center: "You only need to push open the door..." So I went there.
Both of you now have faith. How do you look upon your past?
Michael : I know what brought me here: it was lonliness and pride. In fact, I was looking for love but I went to a bad source. From my early childhood, probably because of a hurt, I was closed in on myself. I was looking for love and at the same time, I was very much afraid of it.
What place does pride have in all of this?
John : Pride closes you up, makes you self-centered. Now I realize that each time I had a problem, I would not talk about it because I was afraid that others would make fun of me. Instead, I just kept it inside. If I had a piece of advice to give to young people, I would tell them to swallow their pride, not carry their problems alone, not try to change the world. This is an illusion. Your pride needs to be put in a closet!
What would you say to young people about drugs?
John : Drugs and alcohol are the same thing. I started smoking joints when I was 14. When I think about it, that was when I started to have problems at school. All week long, I would only think about the weekend when I was able to smoke a little and drink. It was a great feeling and an escape. But it was a false escape. Your life and your problems don't get any better.
Michael : For me, my drug was sex. It really is a drug. All week, I would only think about the night when I was going to have a great time and I would live for it. I knew it wasn't good for me but I couldn't stop myself. As John was just saying, the first thing to do when you are tempted by this kind of experience is to talk to someone about it. Find someone you trust, a parent, a friend, a teacher, and tell them about it right away. Don't be ashamed, too bad if we are like we are! Because by ourselves, we cannot resist the temptation.
All the same, you must see that it is a dead end?
Michael : Yes, you know very well that you are falling into a pit. I wanted to die but I continued because I needed to continue to the end.
Even if that meant death?
Michael : Precisely because it meant death. It seems to be the only deliverance because you can't come out of it.
What do you think about homosexuality?
Michael : I can say now that it destroyed me. Is this a reaction to the danger that is threatening me? I don't know.
Do you think that a homosexual can change his sexual orientation?
Michael : In my case, yes, because I had a girlfriend when I was 16. It was only when I was 18 that I started to go to men. And initially I did it to find a big brother more than anything else. Now I think that, sexually, I am capable of falling in love with a girl.
Do you think that you are also capable in your heart?
Michael : That is exactly what I mean. I think that I would have a greater need to love a girl with my heart than in any other way. Another thing, when I found out that I was HIV positive, it was very painful to think that I probably would not have any children....
John : My homosexual experiences were always disappointing on an affectivity level. The last time, during the infamous night in Bois de Boulogne, I was hoping that the relationship I was about to have with the transvestite would be also an opportunity to talk and to get to know each other. But he left as soon as we finished. I was completely alone....And it is really symptomatic: you do everything to break the loneliness and you end up alone. As soon as you start doing these kinds of things, you need to do it even more because you feel more and more alone...
Tell us: What has your conversion changed?
John : Everything. I was deeply touched during the mass at Christmas. From that moment on, everything in my head was unblocked! Lying on my bed at the hospital, with a high fever, I wrote a love letter to my mother. She and my father immediately came to see me and we were reconciled. Now I want so much to know them and to love them because in fact I don't know them! Another detail: I have been a nail biter since I was 10 because I was so nervous. For three months now, I haven't touched them!
Michael : I changed, also. Before I was very hard and aggressive, I didn't care about anyone else. Now I want to get to know people and love them as they are, even with their faults. I also decided to visit AIDS patients at the hospital. I'm really going to need Christ to give Him my fears and anxieties as I think: "That is how I'm going to be..." I need to pray every day. When I don't pray, I start doing dumb things again.
How do you see your life now?
Michael : For me, it's very simple: I know that my only salvation is Love. Only by believing in Love will I have the courage to live. Sometimes I tell myself that maybe I won't get sick, that in five or six years they will have found a treatment, and that I can start my life over again... Nothing is certain, but I pray for it.
John : We are both sick, maybe we'll die soon, but I can tell you that we are both extremely happy to be alive and it's the first time that this has happened to us!
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