STATEMENT ON HIV-AIDS
(Human Immunodeficiency Virus & Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)
With a selection from previous General Conference related statements*
October 2002 & April 2003
The HIV-AIDS world epidemic is a devastating tragedy that is rapidly spreading around the world; it has and will claim millions of victims. It is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI).
The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes that this is a serious problem decimating entire populations. In many countries of the world, it is taking many lives, including Seventh-day Adventist Church members.
The HIV is transmitted through three major sources: 1) sexual intimacy with an infected person, 2) introduction of HIV contaminated blood into the body, and 3) mother-child transmission (perinatal infection and breast-feeding). HIV infection can be prevented by avoiding sexual contact before marriage and maintaining a faithful monogamous relationship with an uninfected person in marriage. Appropriate screening of blood and blood products, and avoiding the use of unsterile needles for injections, reduce transmissions in the clinical setting.
In view of Jesus’ Great Commission and example during His earthly ministry, as recorded in the Scriptures, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is involved in an active Ministry to fight this terrible disease, and to assist the infected and affected, through the work of all its Agencies, Departments, Churches, Educational and Medical Institutions.
The HIV-AIDS International Ministry is a multi departmental initiative, involving the many Ministries of the Church. Because of the shared Mission and Commission given by Jesus-Christ, a participation of all Church Departments and Agencies is encouraged.
HIV-AIDS and STIs affect every dimension of health: physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual. Stigmatization, rejection, isolation, employment denial and segregation, produce depression, increased abortion and suicide rates.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes the need to use scientifically proven effective medical treatments, and preventive measures. Church leaders are called to respond through initiatives in education, prevention, treatment, and community service.
Just as Christ came to offer healing to a suffering world, so Seventh-day Adventists are commissioned to compassionately care for those who suffer and are affected with HIV. Members can safely serve as care givers, at home or in health care facilities, if they are educated in appropriate ways of doing so. 1
Evidence overwhelmingly confirms the importance of building solid and positive relationships between married couples, parents and children, adults and youth, as the way to prevent “at risk” behaviors. Moral and spiritual support for the youth is encouraged, from families and churches.
Public Health research and statistics show that there is a doorway of opportunity for education and prevention between the ages of 5 to 15 years (for all children), before they become infected. Young women (15 to 24 years of age) are more vulnerable than men to infection with HIV. Such information should be used in the strategic planning of interventions of education and prevention. In certain regions of the world, women at an early age suffer from strong sexual pressure. Empowerment of women and the training of them in negotiating skills to avoid sexual pressures could help decrease the number of infections.
‘Less effort should be put forth in condemnation and more in education and redemptive approaches that seek to allow each individual to be persuaded by the deep movings of the Holy Spirit.’ 2
The Church gives special consideration and encouragement to the implementation of adequate sexual education in all SDAs Schools, Colleges, and Universities at all curricular levels, as well as Pathfinders Clubs. The Seventh-day Adventist Curriculum Framework called “God’s Good Gift of Sexuality” should form the basis of sexual education from infancy to adulthood. This framework and all STIs and HIV-AIDS programs should be contextualized for relevant cultural and linguistic needs.
* Reference Documents:
1 GC – AIDS Statement – 1990
2 Birth Control: A Seventh-day Adventist Statement of Consensus (256-99G) – Revised 9-14-99
3 The following is a selection from the SDA “Statement on Meeting the Challenges of Sexually Transmitted Diseases” – (161-98G) Revised 4-29-98:
“Advances have been made along several lines:
- Research has provided more accurate data;
- Benefits of using condoms to reduce unwanted pregnancy and the spread of STIs (included HIV-AIDS) have been documented;
- Dangers of promiscuity have been recognized;
- More effective treatment has reduced the spread and progression of many STIs
- Risk of long term emotional damage resulting from casual sex has been recognized; and
- Support has grown for the position that abstinence from extramarital sex promotes sexual and emotional health
These advances, despite their limitations, have proved beneficial and should be encouraged for their positive effects. Seventh-day Adventist care givers should be encouraged to participate in promoting such efforts and deserve the support of church members as they do so. A pragmatic approach to dealing with these serious problems and the use of appropriate interventions should by no means be interpreted as endorsement or encouragement of sexual activity outside marriage or of unfaithfulness within marriage. Instead, these efforts must be seen as compassionate attempts to prevent or reduce the negative consequences of illicit sexual behaviors.
At times, family members, and pastors, teachers, counselors, physicians, and others in helping professions may find themselves working with individuals who, despite strong counsel, refuse to turn from sexual decadence and live by God’s high standard of morality. In such cases, those entrusted with ministry may, as a last resort, counsel specific individuals to use contraceptive and prophylactic methods such as condoms in an attempt to prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of spreading life-decimating STIs (included HIV-AIDS). Utmost care should be taken when making such an intervention to make it clear to the individual(s) and members of the community involved that this extreme measure should in no way be misconstrued as a scriptural sanction for sexual intimacy outside marriage. Such action on the part of professionals should be considered temporary and utilized only in individual cases. Though such interventions may provide a little time for grace to do its work in human hearts, they do not provide a viable long-term solution. The Church must remain committed to making the most of every opportunity to reinforce the wisdom of God’s design for human sexuality and to calling men and women to the highest standard of moral conduct.”
The Church affirms the biblical view of sexuality as a wholesome attribute of human nature created by God to be enjoyed and used responsibly in marriage as part of Christian discipleship.
The Church is committed to sharing a biblical view of human sexuality in an intentional and culturally acceptable manner. Emphasis is placed on appreciating and understanding the human body and its functions, upholding sexual chastity outside and fidelity within marital relationships, and developing skills for decision-making and communication about sexual behavior. The Church is committed to conveying the truth that the misuse of one’s own sexuality and the abuse of power in relationships are contrary to God’s ideal.
The Church calls people to dedicate themselves before God to sexual abstinence outside the marriage covenant and sexual faithfulness to one’s spouse. Apart from the wholesome expression of sexual intimacy in marriage, abstinence is the only safe and moral path for the Christian. In any other context, sexual activity is both harmful and immoral. This high standard represents God’s intention for the use of His gift, and believers are called upon to uphold this ideal, regardless of the prevailing standards in the culture around them.
The Church recognizes the sinfulness of humanity. Human beings make mistakes, use poor judgment, and many deliberately choose to engage in sexual practices that are contrary to God’s ideal. Other’s may know where to turn for help to live sexually pure lives. Nothing, however, can spare such individuals from the consequences of departing from the divine plan. Emotional and spiritual wounds left by sexual activity that violates God’s plan inevitable leave scars. But the Church extends Christ’s ministry of mercy and grace by offering God’s forgiveness, healing and restorative power. It must seek to provide the personal, spiritual, and emotional support that will enable the wounded to lay hold of the gospel’s resources. The Church must also help persons and families identify and access the full network of professional resources available.
The Church recognizes as morally acceptable the use of contraceptive measures, including condoms, by married couples who seek to control conception. 1 Condoms in particular may be indicated in some marital circumstances – for example, when one partner has been exposed to or has contracted a sexually transmitted disease, thus putting the spouse at high risk for infection.
On the other hand, the premarital or extramarital use of condoms – either in an attempt to lower the risk of unwanted pregnancy or to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases raises moral concerns. These concerns must be considered in the context of the divine plan for human sexuality, the relationship between God’s creative intent and His regard for human frailty, the process of spiritual growth and moral development within individuals, and the nature of the Church’s mission.
Though condoms have proved to be somewhat effective in preventing pregnancy and the spread of disease, 2 this does not make sex outside of marriage morally acceptable. Neither does this fact prevent the emotional damage that results from such behavior. The Church’s appeal to youth and adults alike, believers and nonbelievers, is to live lives worthy of the grace extended to us in Christ, drawing as fully as possible upon divine and human resources to live according to God’s ideal for sexuality.
The Church acknowledges that in cases where a married person may be at risk for transmitting or contracting a sexually transmitted disease such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from his or her marriage partner, the use of condom is not only morally acceptable but strongly recommended if the husband and wife decide to continue having sexual intercourse. Users of condoms must be alerted to the limits of their effectiveness in preventing the transmission of HIV infection and to the importance of using them properly.
We are facing a crisis that threatens the lives and well being of many people, including church members. Both youth and adults are in peril. The Church must develop, without delay, a comprehensive strategy of education and prevention. The resources of health, social services, educational, ministerial, and other professionals, both within and without the Church, must be mobilized. This crisis demands priority attention – using every legitimate resource and method at the Church’s disposal to target home, school, church, and community. The destiny of an entire generation of human beings is at stake, and we are in a racing against time.
1) See Birth Control: A Seventh-day Adventist Statement of Consensus (160-98G)
2) Research indicates that condoms, when correctly used, have about a 97 percent success rate of prevention of pregnancy and about 85 to 90 percent success rate in prevention of virus transmission, as used by the general population. In those groups who use them consistently and correctly, the effectiveness is about 97 percent.”
Main recommendations to fight STIs and HIV-AIDS**:
(Update of the GC-AIDS Statement – 1990)
1) Promote education on sexuality according to biblical principles, and prevention on STIs and HIV-AIDS.
2) Uphold the ideal of abstinence from premarital sex
3) Advocate premarital HIV testing for both potential partners as part of the church-based preparation for marriage
4) Elevate God’s ideal for faithfulness in marriage
5) Encourage Voluntary Counseling and Testing for understanding and early diagnosis on STIs, and HIV-AIDS
6) Use of protective measures against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
7) Compassionate care for those who suffer and are affected with HIV-AIDS