RELIGION AND HIV/AIDS FROM THE CHRISTIAN

PERSPECTIVE
By The Revd Dr I. U. Ibeme MB. BS, Dip. Theol.
e-mail: ifeogo@yahoo.com;
Websites: http://www.scribd.com/ifeogo ;
http://priscaquila.6te.net/ ;
http://priscaquila.blogspot.com/.
Click Here For
PriscAquila Christian Resource Centre

CONTENTS
Introduction
What is Religion (Reverence)?
What is Science (Knowledge)?
Science and Religion compared
The Science of HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS and The Christian Faith
Christ and the Caring and Healing Ministries
Sexuality
Science-based ideas on Sexuality
Christian Response to Modern Attitudes towards Sexuality
Christian Response to Other Issues Related to HIV/AIDS
Bibliography

A PRESENTATION AT THE 2006 CONFERENCE OF THE ASSOCIATION
FOR THE STUDY OF INTERPLAY BETWEEN RELIGION AND SCIENCE
(ASIRS), THE UNIVERSITY OF MAIDUGURI.
30th MAY 2006.
What interplay is there between Religion and Science as it concerns HIV/AIDS?
I am grateful to the Association for the Study of the Interplay between Religions and
Science (ASIRS), Maiduguri, Nigeria for asking me to speak on this topic and make
my meagre contribution to this discussion.
I have been a Medical Practitioner for the past 21 years and an ordained Priest and
theologian for the past 13 years. Though I was born and brought up as a Christian, the
real revelation of the saving-power of the Gospel of Christ dawned on me 26 years
ago. With this revelation came the unavoidable necessity for me to humbly commit
myself to Christ Jesus as the risen Lord and as my Saviour from the corruption of sin
and condemnation of death.
Back to Contents

What is Religion (Reverence to the Supernatural)?
The root meaning of the word “religion” is “reverence”. Religion is the human
perception of, and response to the Ultimate Divinity (God) or other numinous entities
(spirits, gods). The Abrahamic Religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are
monotheistic. Religion is a sacred relation to the supernatural and is expressed in
worship and reverential awe, right and authentic belief, moral conduct and
participation in the religious community to which one belongs. In postmodern
revisionist epistemology and atheistic cultural trends of today, Religion is being
bastardised as “pretentious bigotry” but hypocrisy and hatred are far from what
Religion ever means etymologically.
Back to Contents
What is Science (Knowledge of the Natural)?
The root meaning of the word “science” is “knowledge”. Science is the pursuit of
systemized knowledge of both the general laws of nature and the general facts about
life, which has been subjected to the empirical scientific method. This is called Pure
Science. Application of scientific knowledge for practical uses is called Applied
Science. On the other hand, Technology is the processes by which tools are crafted to
control the material environment to specific advantage. Technology may derive from
pure and applied sciences, from instincts or from trial and error; on the other hand it
may lead to the unfolding of scientific knowledge.
Back to Contents

Science and Religion compared
“Science without Religion is blind, Religion without Science is lame.”
Albert Einstein
“Man needs science in order to know, religion in order to act.” 
Max Planck
Revelation necessitated Religion which gave rise to Philosophy (Perplexities of life
and nature also gave rise Philosophical Religion); Philosophy gave birth to
Worldview and Science. Science is therefore “Religion Minus” while Religion is
“Science Plus”. However, Science seems to boost human pride because it depends on
human theory but Religion fosters the humility of humanity because it subjects it
depends on supernatural authority. This divergent impact on human ego is why
Religion and Science tend to antagonise each other. The scientific method is based on
objectivity of investigation and acceptability of results as repeatable. Scientific
enquiries may be inductive (Theory derived from Results) or deductive (Results
deduced from Theory).
Religions on the other hand are based on voluntary conviction about the authority of
what is prophetically revealed or what is philosophically contemplated by their
founders (the Messiah/Christ, Prophets, Elders/Fathers, Sages) and the authenticity of

the tenets that are handed down. Religion is both objective and subjective. Pure
Science is only objective and stops at seeking the knowable and measurable HOW’s
of things (i.e. METHODS & MECHANISMS). Religion goes further than Science to
seek the unknowable and immeasurable HOW’s (i.e. MIRACULOUS &
MARVELLOUS) as well as the knowable and unknowable WHY’s of things (i.e.
MEANING & MESSAGE). Science is therefore a subset not an antagonist of
Religion as many have tried to portray in recent times.
As a Physician and Theologian, I have found scientific knowledge (within its limited
dimensions of knowable and measurable HOW’s) useful for appreciating the wonders
of Creation and wisdom of Theology. Even Theology employs the scientific method
in systematising its dogmatics. Religion should give meaning to Science, and Science
should enhance religious awe. I have found Science and Religion interplay to be
Symbiotic. There are other models of this interplay: Independence, Conflict, and
Complementarity. From my experience, Science serves as a tool to help Humanity
fulfil the religious stewardship of exercising dominion on earth.
How do all these come to play in our discussion on Religion and HIV/AIDS?
Back to Contents

The Science of HIV/AIDS
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) 
a Retrovirus 
attacks the CD4 TLymphocytes that are responsible for cellular immunity in humans. The result is the
depletion of these immune cells and the vulnerability of the affected person to
diseases that are normally fought by human cellular immune system e.g.
pneumocystic pneumonia, candidiasis, herpetic viral infections, certain cancers,
tuberculosis, e.t.c.
A scientifically determined combination or conglomeration of some of these diseases
is called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Scientifically speaking
therefore, it is possible to have an AIDS-like illness if one’s cellular immunity is
destroyed by other conditions than HIV infection. The application of the scientific
knowledge about the effect of HIV on humans has led to the development of
technologies and measures to combat the scourge. These technologies include
diagnostic techniques for early detection of HIV and anti-HIV antibodies in the
blood, Anti-Retroviral Therapeutic drugs (ART’s) and measures to prevent the
transmission of the virus as well as detect and treat concomitant opportunistic
infections early.
HIV is known to be transmissible when body fluids (such as blood, wound
discharges, genital secretions and emission) of an infected person gain direct access

into another’s bloodstream or raw tissue surface. This usually occurs during sexual
contact, or exchange of non-sterilised injection needles as among drug addicts; the
same also applies to tattooing implements. Sexual contact remains the single most
important means of spread for HIV/AIDS. Homosexual, prostitutes, and promiscuous
persons are usually mostly affected. On the other hand, abstainers and faithfully
married couples are usually least affected.
Back to Contents

HIV/AIDS and The Christian Faith
Apart from diagnosis and drug therapy, the next most significant control measure
against HIV/AIDS is modification of sexual behaviour especially towards abstinence
and sex exclusively within a faithful monogamous marriage, but also towards
condom use (so called “Safe-Sex”). Modification or regulation of sexual behaviour is
not yet in the realm of Science as at today. Rather it has been in the domain of
Religion to control or regulate sexual behaviour over the ages. In view of this,
Science must join hands with Religion in order to succeed in the war against
HIV/AIDS.
Indeed adherents to the Christian faith both at local Church and at wider
denominational levels have long been involved in care ministries to HIV/AIDS
victims. Not only have Christians formed Faith-based groups, they have also reached
out to other non-Christian religious bodies to form Inter-Faith networks to fight
HIV/AIDS. This was started in the United States of America in the mid 1980s a few
years after the discovery of HIV and outbreak of AIDS among American
Homosexuals. By 1989 The AIDS National Inter-faith Network had been formed.
By 1993, in an effort to develop an appropriate response to HIV/AIDS from the faith
community, the Council of National Religious AIDS Networks, an interfaith
coalition, came together to develop a statement declaring their commitment to
promote prevention, global response, tolerance and poverty elimination based on
the principles of love, compassion and justice. By 2001 when it has become clear
that Faith-based initiatives is of major significance and a strong force in the fight
against HIV/AIDS, President Bush had no choice than to start supporting such groups
financially without discrimination, for the purpose of caring and healing initiatives.
This idea has gained global acclaim as most nations have now copied this model.
In Nigeria today we have the National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA)
collaborating with, encouraging and supporting NGO’s and Faith-based groups by
providing guidelines, funds and other resources.

Through Faith-based groups, the Christian Church has been involved in a barrage of
approach to combating the HIV/AIDS plague, which include:
1. Prevention: e.g. Health Education and Sexual reorientation campaign.
2. Primary Care: e.g. Hospices and Clinics.
3. Support Services: e.g. - Provision of food and shelter for the infected or
affected;
- Advocacy against stigmatisation and for concerted
effort against AIDS;
- Training of Care Providers;
- Counselling for those affected or infected.
4. Cooperation: e.g. Networking with groups within the Christian Faith and
across with groups from other Faiths.
The aim in all these is to do good and show compassion in order to bring healing and
hope to those infected and those affected by HIV/AIDS.
Back to Contents

Christ and the Caring and Healing Ministries
No Christian has any excuse for not rising to the challenge of HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The Scriptures record that Jesus Christ went about in the power of the Holy Spirit:
“... doing good, and healing all ….” 
(Acts. 10:38)
The Scriptures also report that Jesus Christ empowered His 12 Apostles to heal:
“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power
against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness
and all manner of disease.”
(Mat 10:1)
“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and
authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the
kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.”
(Luk 9:1-2)
So for the Christian Faith healing is not only divine but also divinely commissioned,
being inseparable from the Gospel of Christ.
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being
dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were
healed.”
(1Pe 2:24)
The Gospel of Christ offers salvation from the burden of sin and death for the whole
world, and healing from the concomitant diseases and sicknesses. In this vicious
cycle of “sin-disease-death-damnation”, sexual behaviour is again of great
significance as is the case with HIV/AIDS. To a large extent therefore, sexuality

stands between humanity and her destiny especially as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned.
Back to Contents

Sexuality
Sexuality concerns male-female psychophysical relations and expressions as well as
physiological constitution. Sexual preference and desire as well as sexual identity and
capacity belong to human sexuality. This needs to be distinguished from Gender
relations, which concerns male-female social roles and cultural expectations.
For the Christian Religion, sexuality issues border on morality and immorality of
relations while Gender issues border on equality and inequality of the sexes.
What could the Christian Faith contribute in dealing with the sexuality issue that
contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS? These are usually non-marital sexual
orientations and involvements such as homosexual relations, premarital and
extramarital sex, multiple and indiscriminate sex, bestiality, paedophilia and the like.
This must be examined in the context of prevalence of science-based post-modern
ideas of sexual freedom.
Back to Contents
Science-based ideas on Sexuality
Scientific ideas, unable to venture into morality matters for which there are no
empirical formulae yet, prefer to insist that there is no immorality, though they would
accept that there is insecurity. Is this not “valuephobia”? The argument is that one
man’s morality may be another man’s immorality. Yet, the same applies to security,
for one man’s security may be another man’s insecurity. So Science-based ideas insist
that no one should be intimidated with any moral judgement for doing what one feels
happy doing with oneself. However, due to the fact of the “danger” of contracting
HIV, Scientific ideologists feel that the option of using condom as a partial protection
(called “Safe Sex” or “Safer Sex”) should be offered, if one cared about the “risk”.
Strangely, such precautionary advice against “dangers” and “risks” is not seen as
intimidating, i.e. scientifically speaking!
So far, scientific studies have shown that where religious values of abstinence and
heterosexual intra-marital sex are propagated and accepted, sexual behaviour is
modified and the spread of HIV/AIDS is reduced. Religion has power to modify
sexual behaviour where Science is hesitant. Christian Religion, which has the safest
sexual moral standardrds of allowing sex only within a monogamous life-long
marriage, serves the best purpose in protection against and prevention of spread of
HIV/AIDS, for everyone who believes the Gospel.

Science is about what works and how things work, but religion is about what is right
or wrong and what is good or bad. The mistake of using Science in place of Religion
has led to the laiser-faire ideas about sexuality. However, Science is for information
on matter not for instruction on character. Science is for know-how not for ethics.
Science is for the intellect not for the conscience. Religious claims provoke scientific
enquiry, while scientific research confirms religious convictions. Religion and
Science then, are complimentary and more so symbiotic. Science should be the
handmaid of Religion.
Those who make Science a religion end up becoming unscientific. For instance, those
who turn the hypothetical assumption called the “theory” of evolution into a dogma
of origins antithetical to the religious doctrine of creation are really misusing Science.
That complex forms evolved out of simpler forms is an assumption contrary to the
scientifically established thermodynamic Law of Entropy; and in Science, laws
overrides theoretical assumptions. In fact, recent developments have shown that the
Intelligent Design Theory (IDT) of evolution accords more with natural scientific
laws, logic and mathematics than the Darwinian Random Selection theory of
evolution. However, because Science has not been able to quantify intelligence in
absolute terms nor does Science wish to be tele-guided by a superior Intelligence, it is
in a fix as to which way to go. Is this “Theophobia” in today’s parlance? This is
actually “Theostugeia” in proper language.
Back to Contents

Christian Response to Modern Attitudes towards Sexuality
Most people including homosexuals agree that homosexuality is abnormal or
unnatural and that extramarital and promiscuous sex is unsafe. The contentions are
about Values and Choice, about Morality and Freedom:
1. Should anyone be told what to do (or not do) based on any moral values in
matters of personal choice and desire?
2. Is homosexuality and other non-marital sex acts of choice (i.e. modifiable) or
an inevitable result of a variant natural physiologic constitution (i.e. nonmodifiable)?
3. Should homosexuality and other non-marital sex be condemned or condoned,
corrected or canvassed?
4. Where does personal freedom end and general morality begin?
From the point of view of Science, no one should be restrained from any
scientifically feasible indulgence as long as such indulgences are private and the
involved parties are consenting. From the Christian perspective, such people should
be appealed to or be persuaded to reconsider their choices and play down on their
desires, depending on the saving power of Christ to help them through. The basis
should be the safety and good of the entire human race, the sanctity of life, the

revelation from God in the Biblical Scriptures and the salvation accomplished in
Christ. This has been found to work through the ages for those who believe.
Christianity’s basic call is to metanoia i.e. “repentance” or “change of mind”.
Christian Religion can offer this message not only to those with unhealthy sexual
behaviour but also to those with uncaring attitudes towards people living with
HIV/AIDS.
Science has not shown any empirical proof for any claims to genetic or other
irreversible constitutional basis for homosexual or promiscuous inclination.
According to the Christian Religion, homosexuality and other promiscuous sexual
behaviour, just like all unhelpful behaviours, are reversible through metanoia by the
power of the Word and the Spirit of God for anyone who believes. Therefore,
unnatural and unhealthy sexual involvements should not be condoned but
condemned. Nevertheless, those involved should not themselves be condemned,
rather they should be corrected and encouraged to abandon or overcome their
unfruitful and unprofitable behaviour through metanoia or Repentance, for their own
good.
“Because they do this, God has given them over to shameful passions. Even
the women pervert the natural use of their sex by unnatural acts. In the same
way the men give up natural sexual relations with women and burn with
passion for each other. Men do shameful things with each other, and as a result
they bring upon themselves the punishment they deserve for their wrongdoing.
Because those people refuse to keep in mind the true knowledge about God, he
has given them over to corrupted minds, so that they do the things that they
should not do. They are filled with all kinds of wickedness, evil, greed, and
vice; they are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, and malice. They gossip
and speak evil of one another; they are hateful to God, insolent, proud, and
boastful; they think of more ways to do evil; they disobey their parents; they
have no conscience; they do not keep their promises, and they show no
kindness or pity for others. They know that God's law says that people who live
in this way deserve death. Yet, not only do they continue to do these very
things, but they even approve of others who do them.”
(Rom 1:26-32)
The Christian Religion categorises homosexuality and other no-marital sex as the
decadent sin of sexual immorality, dangerous for humanity and unacceptable before
God. Personal freedom starts where the good of others stops. Personal freedom ends
where the interest of humanity is at stake. God’s choice is the best freedom.
Back to Contents

Christian Response to Other Issues Related to HIV/AIDS

Hash experiences of life such as deprivation, disease, death, disaster and despair may
push one to what I call Theostugeia (hating the idea of Ultimate Divinity  God) or
Valuephobia (hating the idea of moral values), as well as get involved with unhelpful
behaviour. Yet the Christian must reach out with love as the agent of reconciliation in
the face contentious issues; identifying with the suffering and helping to find a way
out and bringing hope by the example and the power of Christ.
For those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS with all the attendant perplexities we
must share our eschatological concept of human history with an optimistic end for
humanity through the grace of redemption in Christ. Anyone who has the knowledge
of salvation in Christ knows that he or she is equipped and called to bring comfort
and care for the bereaved and abandoned; show faith in God and moral uprightness
for others to see and copy; and ensure social justice in place of inequity and
prejudice.
I agree with Professor Anne Bayley of Lusaka University Teaching Hospital that the
Christian religion has a lot to offer, one of which is this:
“A faith that God exists and is personal, not impersonal; hospitable not
hostile, and involved-with not indifferent to humankind – a faith which is supported
by historical and contemporary evidence, although not ‘provable’ or ‘disprovable’ in
scientific terms”
(One New Humanity, p.126)
Back to Contents

Bibliography
HEFLEY, James C, Life In The Balance, Victor Books, Wheaton, 1980.
STOTT, John, Issues Facing Christians Today. Marshall Pickering, London, 1994.
BAYLEY, Anne, 0ne New Humanity: The Challenge of AIDS, SPCK, London, 1996.
DAVIS, John Jefferson, Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today, P&R
Publishing, New Jersey, 1993.
AIDS ACTION COUNCIL, Policy Facts: Faith-Based and Community Response to
HIV/AIDS, The Body, 2003
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR WORLD HEALTH , Fact Sheets: The Faith
Community & HIV/AIDS and An Interfaith Declaration, The Body, 1999
New Dictionary of Theology, IVP, Leicester, 1988.
Encyclopaedias Britannica 2001, Software.
Microsoft Encarta 2005, Software.
The Holy Bible.
Back to Contents

Last Updated March 16, 2015

By The Revd Dr. I. U. Ibeme
Copyright © PriscAquila Publishing, Maiduguri, Nigeria.
Click Here For
PriscAquila Christian Resource Centre
Back to Contents