I saw this graphic of the “African Cliff” a few weeks ago and have been meaning to blog about it. The graph shows the life expectancy of various countries in Africa over the past 50 years. The mid-90s nosedive is thanks primarily to AIDS.
This should be heart-breaking. Anyone who thinks AIDS is still a disease to blame on sexual deviants is missing the boat. Yes, we can thank inappropriate sexual behavior for helping spread AIDS. But so many AIDS victims became infected thanks to tainted blood, thanks to a lying spouse, or thanks to simply being born. Painting AIDS with the broad brush of sexual sinners is just wrong, and I can’t believe I even have to say that. That kind of thinking reminds me of the holocaust.
Speaking of reminders, the African Cliff graph reminds me of another graph about the Black Plague. This graph shows the population of Europe over time with a huge hit thanks to the plague–a third of the population died. I tried to find a similar graph for AIDS deaths, but I couldn’t find one. Though I have heard–as recently as Sunday’s sermon at church–that AIDS has killed 10% of Africa’s population. Or maybe it was 10% of the population are infected. At any rate, the similarities are striking.
But the major difference is Europeans knew next to nothing about the Black Plague. They didn’t know how to stop it and most people just fled any outbreak, with one exception–Christians. Many Christians stayed behind to care for the sick and dying, often risking their own lives. AIDS is a different story. We don’t know how to cure it yet, but we do know how to stop its spread, how to slow its effects. So why aren’t we? Great strides have been made in recent years against AIDS, often led by Christians, and I only hope we can continue.
Update: Josh asked what he can do to help the cause, so I’ve added a list of four things you can do to fight AIDS after the jump. It’s something I wrote a few years ago for a magazine, so hopefully the links are still good.
Josh asked if money was really the best way to help, and I’m not sure. I do know I’ve heard Bono and lots of others talk about the importance of debt relief since many African countries spend more on their debts than they do on medical care. Bono and the DATA organization are big on relieving debt and establishing fair trade so the African nations will eventually be able to take care of themselves. So advocacy is huge–tell your friends and tell your elected officials.
Four Things You Can Do to Fight AIDS in Africa:
Spreading the word gets more people involved and brings more money to the issue. Start with your friends and family. Talk to your pastor and get your church involved. Tell your government officials by e-mail, phone, or snail mail. Avoid guilt-trips and the high-pressure sales pitch. Just tell them why the issue is important to you.