AIDS prevention: An Islamic approachAIDS prevention programs:
The danger of transplanting culturally mismatched
The danger of transplanting culturally mismatched
We have argued in the previous' chapter that the "mismatched trans- plantation" of any preventive model from one culture to another, even if it is successful in the original culture, an be as dangerous as the mismatched transplant of hu'man organs. his may utterly fail, be 'rejected' by the host culture or even lead to opposite results. From this perspective, one feels really dishearte ed to see Arab and Muslim health practitioners unenlightening y subscribing to the Western model of AIDS prevention bye dlessly repeating the 'gospel' of advising their Muslim nationals to se condoms, avoid sex with 'high risk groups', avoid using cont minated needles and syringes, and be faithful to one 'partner' In some countries, European leaflets, pamphlets and posters are simply translated into local languages and distributed to simple rural people who never inject drugs.The small minority 9f drug abuser among these villagers either drink alcohol or smoke nashish. To them, the pictures in the posters and leaflets are embarrassingly obsc ne and pornographic and the artistic messages too abstract to com rehend. As a matter of fact, some of the pictorial materials distribut d by AIDS prevention groups are seen as giving the opposite messag even in industrialised countries. By way of illustration, an Australia censor has lately been officially asked to judge whether a series of cards developed by a local council on AIDS prevention are porno raphic and should be banned. These cards had on one side picture of naked men engaging in
homosexual acts, and on the other a 'safe' sex message. The Queensland government feared that this saf sex message may turn out to be plain porn (Reuters, March, 1995).
Even in urban Muslim communities, any health workers fail to propagate their preventive mes age. Recently, one Arab television station aired a program in which n old doctor spoke about the dangers of AIDS and sexually transm tted diseases. He uncritically parroted the prevention methods o the Western Danish model and showed the viewers a condom wh ch he later inflated like a long balloon. The program drew savage a acks and sarcasm. It obviously did not serve its purpose because it s out of cultural tune!
I consequently strongly b lieve that prevention of the AIDS dilemma in Muslim countries hould not be left to alienated J Westernised WHO experts, to la y public health practitioners who t are willing to apply any 'readyma e' prevention model, or to brain- washed psychiatrists and social w rkers who are 'auto-culture blind', unable to see the merits and super or ethical values of their own religion and culture. They are so dog atically Western-minded that they equate the usefulness of values nd ideas with technological and material excellence. Thus, importi g modernity's AIDS prevention to them is as good as importing the atest laser medical technology or PET scanning. Perhaps it is this p ssive and negative attitude which prompted a former African minist r of health to strongly emphasise that, "AIDS is not just a doctor's b, siness or a nurse's business or an :' expert's business. Everybody, every here, is needed to assist in every :; way to spread the word on AIDS" Sabatier, 1988, p. 130).
As we have seen, the Western AIDS prevention model is culturally patterned according to the ew morality of the sexual revol tion and the dictates of the liberal ecularWestern society. It follows a strategy of saving what can be aved by external manipulations without tapping the inner spiritual ncentives or changing moral and ethical values. Before adopting it holesale, Muslim health practitioners, educators, social worker and other interested religious groups should have first assessed thesuccess of the Western preventive model in its native countries. Since it is failing there to the Iextent that AIDS has already beco e the prime killer of the sexually active young Americans, it will s rely be an utter failure in more , spiritually and Jslamically oriented ocieties. For prevention to attain any real success, it must develop from Islami roots. There are a number of cogent reasons for this claim. I will st te my arguments in the following discussions:
1. Faith or iman and Islamic rites: A forceful aid to AIDS prevention
a. The Islamic conception of faith in Cod: The c rnerstone of Islamic AIDS prevention:
An Islamic prevention program should make u e of the deep belief that Muslims have in the Absolute Power and ercy of Allah Ta'ala, the Almighty God who creates and controls ev rything in this uni- verse, from the tiniest electron to the largest gal xy. He knows every detail or vv'him in men's hearts. The Qur'an sta es "He knows your secrets and that which is even more hidden (in you} than your secrets" (Ta Ha (20): 7). This belief is deeply roo ed in Muslim hearts and minds whether they are saints or criminals. nd it is thisiman or faith which bestows the Muslims in many coun ries with the lowest : percentages of HIV infections (WHO statistics o AIDS). This is quite clear in Muslim countries of the Middle Eas and North Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and other societies o strong Islamic commitment. A successful AIDS prevention progra should make use of this deeply-rooted belief and should seek the as istance of influential Muslim preachers who know how to tap thes beliefs in changing attitudes and sexual habits in order to avoid the spread of HIV infection.
b. The spiritual benefit of prayer:
Iman is defined as that which is deeply anchor d in one's heart and is verified by one's deeds and actions. The ost essential among these verifications of Iman and Islam is the pe ormance of obligatory forms of worship and rituals. Chief among them are prayers and fasting. The practising Muslim has to offer hi five daily prayers.
Though each prayer may take only few minutes, it is a relaxing and highly spiritual and contemplative ritual which at times takes the ii faithful into a divine journey of tranquillity and closeness to God. , This experience is especially moving when mass prayers are led by an imam who beautifully chants the inimitable poetry of the verses of the Qur'an. These prayers are nicel distributed during the day and early dark hours of the night, so th t the Muslim can carry out his daily business and other responsibili ies, but after every few hours he has to extract himself from this worl of the here and now to the spiritual world. During these blessed ti es he is consciously and uncosciously reminded of his Islamic eth cal standard and moral responsibility. Prayers, properly performed, herefore, give the faithful a very strong willpower against fornication and the unsanctioned temptations of the flesh, as well as the strongth to abstain from drugs and alcohol. The Holy Qur'an states:
"Recite what is revealed of the Book to you and establish regular prayer: fo prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds." (AI-'Ankabut (29): 45).
c. Fasting boosts the will to change:
Fasting is another spiritually elevating obligatory form of worship. For the whole blessed month of Ramadan Muslims prevent themselves from eating, drinking and having sex al relations from dawn to sunset. To this day, fasting is regularly a served by both devout and sinful Muslims alike allover the world. Police records of theft and house : !i breaking, rape, car accidents, drunke aggression, and similar crimes ; show an obvious decline during thi month in all countries of theIslamic world.
It is during this month that many Muslims generate the necessary will and motivation to chang their lives by stopping to take alcohol, drugs or smoking or to absta n from promiscuity and opt for a tranquil life of marriage. In a study on the effica of spiritual healing to Sudanese alcohol abusers which I carried ou for the first WHO meeting on "The promotion and development o traditional medicine" which was held in Geneva (Technical R .port, Series 622, WHO, 1978), I found that almost all the alcohol busers of my sample were able to totally abstain during the fasting onth of Ramadan. Very few of them took a little alcohol during the arly nights of the , month to avert withdrawal symptoms. Many of th e who have even- tually achieved total sobriety were those who ad sustained this Ramadan abstinence for good. Towards the end o the month, many of them felt so determined not to lose their new di ine enlightenment and improved health that they found it neces ary to perform a solemn Qur'anic oath not to relapse. The writer f und that an appre- ciable number were able to resist relapsing a nu ber of years after they decided to stop alcohol intake.
Similarly, abstaining from adulteryl forni ation and sodomy can frequently be achieved during this month an an Islamicallyori- ented AIDS prevention model should make use of he spiritual wealth of Ramadan in changing sexual attitudes and im oral pathological behaviour. Hence, the combined influence of pr yer and fasting on the heart and mind of a faithful Muslim can be a powerful incentive to a clean sexual life and freedom from risky b haviour and drug intake. To build a strong will and aversion to pr miscuity is not to consider all kinds of sex as sinful or 'dirty'. A pra tising Muslim fully enjoys sex, for mere pleasure or procreation, but n doing so he fully acknowledges that he is a slave of God and is g ided by His moral rules. He is not a slave of his unruly unsatiated lu t, nor is he guided by his erogenous zones!
It is really lamentable to see Muslim AID practitioners, who possess such a wealth of spiritual self-preventio , yet do not make use of it in their prevention programs, echoin instead a failing Western model and parroting the gospel of c ndoms and clean syringes. They remind me of the famous verse f an ancient Arab poem which describes persons who are blind t their own cultural treasures as camels in a hot desert who suffer and die from thirst el ! while large skins of water are loaded on their backs. I am sure if daily prayers and Ramadan were observed by Westerners the way they are I observed in the Islamic world today, we would have had hundreds 0, upon hundreds of serious studies and research into their usefulness in AIDS prevention and in solving the problems of drug addiction. This is particularly saddening when one sees that the modern Muslim youth are coming back to Islamic values with forceful devotion. Prayers and fasting have another supporting aspect to the immune system. The steady spiritual invigoration, serenity and peace of mind they create in the practising Muslim is indeed an enhancing factor to his or her immune system. Modern research in psychosomatic and holistic medicine has repeatedly confirmed this relationship between mind and body to the extent that it has become one of the established , facts of modern medicine.
Another very interesting finding about the physiological bene- fits of fasting in the month of Ramadan which is quite pertinent to our discussion of AIDS prevention was reported by Dr. Usama Qandil of the Medical School of the prestigious Harvard University. Professor , Qandil found that the challenge that the human body faces when the fasting person suddenly stops the intake of food and water from dawn to sunset each day for a whole month causes the immune system to counter attack this condition with an upsurge in the activity of the very cells which are depleted by the AIDS virus.
Professor Qandil and his co-workers performed a number of remarkable studies comparing the influence of fasting on the immune systems of cancer patients suffering from immune deficiency. In one group, he compared the natural killer-cell count and their efficiency in attacking cancer cells just before the group embarked on fasting, as compared with their efficiency on the twenty-first day: of Ramadan and the twenty-eighth day of the month. The result was : indubitable. Fasting greatly increased the measured activity of these ; killer cells. The statistically computed difference was highly signifi-'\ cant (p<O.O2). It is of interest to note that Dr. Qandil found no difference of significance between the activity of the killer cells in healthy fasting Muslims as compared with a control of healthy non-Muslims.
Dr. Qandil also meticulously compared the ratio of other cells of the immune system in both healthy and immune subjects includ- ing a sample of those who fasted in the month of Ramadan and those who did not. He must have been astonished to find an upsurge in the ratio of the T-cells, and only in those who fasted. The statistical significance of this ratio was a staggering 0.0009. And of these cells, the helperT-cells had the highest increase. As we have explained earlier, these helper T-cells are unequivocally the most important group of cells in,the immune'system since, like the field marshal of an army, they control other cells of the immune system and organise the bat- tle against invading germs. By now we must be well acquainted with the fact that the AIDS virus and its collaborators are a killer because they target these T-cells. (Saudia monthly magazine, Ah/an Wasah/an, February 1996 issue, p. 73).
d. Promotion of AIDS prevention through hajj and 'umrah:
A third pillar of Islam and iman that can be very helpful in develop- ing Islamically oriented AIDS prevention is pilgrimage, or thehajj. Every year, millions upon millions of Muslims travel to Makkah to perform the holy rites of thehajj and 'Umrahah and to Madinah to visit the holy grave of the Prophet Muhammad and to pray in his blessed Mosque. The Prophet Muhammad, may the peace of God be upon him, is the only messenger of God whose blessed place of bur- ial is,authenticated without any shred of doubt. Thehajj is an annu- al holy occasion in which more than two million Muslims every year voluntarily pay for their transportation and other expensive needs to visit the holy Ka'bah, carry out specified rituals and congregate in the blessed valley of 'Arafah. All the pilgrims aggregate in this vast valley from noon to sunset to engage in prayer, glorifying Almighty God and begging Him for forgiveness and blessings. In spite of the hardships of overcrowding, high temperature, barren desert and hot black mountains radiating heat like giant stoves, the experience of the hajj is so moving and spiritually invigorating that most pilgrims return to their countries with completely different attitudes and spiritual orientations. Many are able to stop taking drugs and pledge to uphold their daily prayers and other religious obligations. In some Muslim societies, the esteemed title of "Hajj" (and "Hajjah" for a woman) is bestowed upon the person who performs this commandment. This , would generally impede such a person from engaging in fornication, drug intake or similar base practices associated with irreligious and good-for-nothing people, practices in which he might have indulged before his pilmirage,
A few decades ago, a large number of those coming to the hajj were the elderly who wished to carry out this obligatory commandment before their death. With the powerful wave of contemporary ; Islamic revivalism, the picture is completely reversed. About 85% of 1; the pilgrims are now young men and women. Though these young :: Muslims are not travelling to visit the breathtaking beauty of the lakes : of Switzerland nor to enjoy the happy-go-lucky life of Las Vegas, and though they are aware of the difficult camping life in the hot Arabian sand and the hazards of camp fires, sunstroke and suffocation due to overcrowding, they are still willing to pay to perform their religious duty.
The number of youthful applicants to the hajj and 'umrah is skyrocketing. Srnce the seventies, the government of Saudi Arabia found it necessary to limit the increasing number of pilgrims, specifying a quota for each Islamic country according to its population, and preventing those who have already performed the pilgrimage from doing so for a second time before the lapse of a specified number of years. Accordingly, ministries of pilmirage in many Islamic countries have found themselves compelled to select the lucky ones by casting lots. The number of overseas pilgrims added to those from inside Saudi Arabia exceeded two and half million at the last hajj occasion .
Unlike the hajj, the'umrah and visits to the grave of the Prophet and his .holy mosque can be performed at an time during the year, but then again, the huge numbers of those wi hing to visit Makkah, particularly during the holy month of Rama an have necessitated Saudi restrictions. I performed the "umrah during the Ramadan of 1996. As I stood to say my late night mass pra er, it was clear to me that there was hardly any place for more p ople inside the vast mosque with its huge multi-storey edifice. It wa just like the hajj. The number of people who attended the blessed night prayer of the twenty"seventh of Ramadan exceeded one millio .From where I was playing, I intentionally tried to spot old people like myself whose hair had whitened or greyed. It was a difficult task, since by far the great majority were the black-headed youth. ' How is it that an international Muslim mmah facing such a lethal pandemic as AIDS fails to make use of th hajj and the 'umrah in launching an Islamically oriented awarenes and prevention campaign? How is it that the ministries of health, outh or social affairs in all Muslim countries fail to utilise this u ique opportunity to address millions upon millions of these young eople who are at the highest risk of infection? These young pilgrims do not cost anybody anything. On the contrary, some governments ake money by forcing pilgrims to pay hajj and 'umrah taxes and y increasing the fares for air travel to Saudi Arabia during hajj time.
Millions every year could have beco e aware of the AIDS issue and how best to deal with it from an Isla ic point of view. The message could have been given in all the di erent languages spoken in the various Muslim countries, so that it ould be widely propagated by these pilgrims when they return to t eir home countries. It is lamentable that other than the usual very li ited Islamic preaching by professional scholars, this great occas on is only used as a floor for political quarrels and boisterous rallies.
e. The Muslim youth: The spearhead of Islamic revivalism:
From what we have just said about thehajj it will be evident that the Western model, which was mainly develop d to preserve the sexual revolution, will be clearly rejected by the gr at majority. of the sexually active Muslim youth to whom AIDS pre ntion is supposed to be directed. Whether we like it or not, Islam a a religion and an ethical way of life is returning with a forceful socio-cultural and spiritual tidal wave which is changing the social nd political face of the land of Islam. This great revival has paradoxi ally been brought about by the young; by those who were supposed to have been 'liberated' from their religi9us and traditional values an who have accordingly been more vulnerable to HIV infection. ,
In almost all Muslim and Arab cou tries, Islamic organised groups have completely dominated studen , workers, lawyers and doctors unions. Scores of young females w o were brought up by westernised modern Muslim mothers are i I sisting on wearing the hijab (Islamic dress), at times against the wishes of their elders and the threats of their governments. This is cle rly exemplified by the refusal of veiled Muslim girls in France to fo sake their Islamic dress in the face of the unfair and prejudiced deci ion of the French minister of education at that time to expel any female Muslim student who came to school wearing Islamic attire.
In the social and political arena, irres ective of the final out- comes, Islamic revival amongst the young s showing itself everywhere; whether it is the triumph of the Muja ideen in Afghanistan or the unexpected successes of the Islamists in t e recent Jordanian and Algerian free elections; the stone throwing lestinian children, the jihad of the reintroduction of Islamic law in Sudan and Pakistan, or the return of old customs like polygamy and earded youth; one will find the young Muslim men and women to b the spearhead in each and every sphere of these revolutionary move ents. For the first time in recent history, the gulf between the old an the young in Muslim countries is showing itself in a reverse fashi n. It is the young who crowd the mosques and adhere to Islamic adition, at times with uncompromising vigour.
Paradoxically, this Islamic reviv,lism amongst the youth is most forceful in Muslim countries that were modernised according to Western standards. Western powers exported the values and modern technology of modernity to colonised Muslim countries with the firm expectation that this would secularise them. The result was just the opposite. The more modernised the Muslim society, the stronger would be its Islamic dedication and the Western technology import- ed to modernise, to become the tools for Islamic propagation. This phenomenon serves as a good example of the culture blind and eth- nocentric way Westerners generally perceive other cultures. Just because the church in the Middle Ages presented an ugly, barbarous picture of religion, and just as the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution blended in Western modernity to bring about secularisa- tion, the same results should be expected in any other corner of the world even if religion in that corner has brought about enlightenment to its followers. This is beautifully elucidated by John L. Esposito (lslam-The straight path (Oxford University Press, 1988)). He says:
The history of modern Islam has challenged many presuppositions and expectations. The prevailing wisdom was that modernization required the separation of religion from public life, as modernizing societies' progressively and inevitably became secularized. The very process of modernization, which includes the impact of reason, science, and technology, was seen as encouraging and enhancing this secularization process...lslamic revivalism:..has countered and discredited such a uniform, evolutionary view of histori- cal change and development. Revivalism has l, been most visible in countries where modern ism had been strongest. Moreover, technology and modern education have often been used to reinforce rather than undermine belief and practice (p. 176).
In this kind of atmo.sphere, whether we like it or not, it should be unwise to set up AIDS prevention strategies along Western lines or to speak freely to Muslim youth about being homosexual, bisexual or lesbian, and to advise using condoms with prostitutes, or to speak about sexually active, unwed mothers who infect their babies with HIV as though one is talking about preferences in foods or drinks. It should be noted here that it is not the open talk about sexual matters between real or hypothetically married couples which is offensive. The Islamic literature, as we have already noted, tackles the hetero- sexual problems between married couples in the most frank manner. It is the implied or direct reference to what Muslims consider as immoral or perverted sexual relations which can be embarrassing.
Of course, one should not expect that all those who refuse a Western-style prevention plan of AIDS are not themselves promiscuous. There is always a difference between the spoken ideals and the actual practice of the individual. However, such persons, unlike their Western counterparts, feel guilty about their sexual misbehaviour and look forward to the day in which they will repent and go straight. Most of my Arab and Musl im patients, from Pakistan to Morocco, find it difficult to confess their unlawful sexual relations. When they finally do, they are often tearful, or at least repentant. Virginity and chastity are still highly held virtues, particularly in females, whereas any unsanctioned sexual relation is still considered sinful. This value judgement is generally accepted in any Muslim culture whether it is actually practised or not. Any wise group of professionals who are to plan for AIDS prevention in Arab and Muslim countries where the Muslim youth had already been influenced by revivalist movements . should take this Islamic orientation inio serious consideration. They should ponder the relevant information about AIDS, what to give and how to give it, what psychospiritual attitudes to foster, and what behaviour changes to expect, as these are all influenced by this primary aspect.
2. Islamic prevention' and divine retribution
The Western psyche greatly resent the idea of God's retribution, for obvious historical and psychological reasons which we have already detailed. Western secularisation denies the authority of divine sanc- tification and perceives its sanctions and punishments as being opposed to human freedom and dignity and to humanism which strongly believes that man is the measure of all things.
I will give a few unambiguous examples from the writings of Bertrand Russel, the eminent British philosopher, one of the most influential thinkers of the Western world and the recipient of the Order of Merit and the Nobel Prize for literature. He condemns Christ because he appealed to fear and retribution by believing in hell! He asserts that Socrates was a wiser man who deserves more respect because he does not take the line of indignation. "You find ," him (Socrates} quite bland and urbane toward the people who would not listen to him" (1957, p. 17}. In mocking religious punishment and ":,'l retribution, picturing preachers as hypocrites, Russel tells the story of a parson who terribly frightened his congregation with tales of future , catastrophes awaiting sinners and with pronouncements of the imminence of the second coming of Christ. However, Russel narrates, frightened worshippers were much consoled when they found him planting trees in his garden! (1957}.
More importantly, religious retribution is firmly associated in the Western mind with such repugnant acts of the church as the burn- ing of innocent women accused of having sexual relations with the devil, and the execution of and cruelty to scientists who opposed the views of the church. One must agree that these acts were barbaric, irrational, and antagonistic to science, the new religion of modernity. Therefore, it is only natural to find that this attitude of repugnance towards retribution has, since the Enlightenment, completely com- manded the white man's temperament like a chronic, hardened pho bia.
This attitude of revul ion towards the inhumane history of the church and subsequently any form of retribution can be emotionally oveRgeneralised to aim st all forms of punishment and to all religions. This cannot be expr ssed in stronger and clearer words than those lucidly stated by Russel:
"You find this curio s fact, that the more intense has been the religion of ny period and the more profound has been the dogma ic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the wor has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of aith, when men really did believe the Christian religio in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with ts tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women urned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practised upon all sorts of people in the name of religi n" (Russel, 1957, p. 20).
As he fluently continues, R ssel begins to generalise his wrath to all forms of organised religions of the world:
"You find as you loo around the world that every sin- gle bit of progress to ard the dimjnution of war, every step toward better tr atment of the colored races, or every mitigation of s avery, every moral progress that there has been in t e world, has been consistently opposed by the orga ized churches of the world II (pp. 20 & 21). !
By organised churches of th world, Bertrand Russel obviously refers to all 'organised' religions and not only to Christianity, since in another part of his article, 'Why I am not a Christian , he clearly ascribes these negative attrib tes to all religions. In another article in the same book, Russel defia tiy denounces all religions by writing, "My own view of religion is hat of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to human race" ( p. 24). Though Bertrand Russel may not be so typical in his atheistic fanaticism, this biased, narrow-minded approach of seeing all reli- gions through the tunnel- vision of medieval Catholicism is unfortu- I nately the general rule among the majority of Western scholars. They are too obsessed with the history of the Dark Ages with its Catholic I ferociousness, its inquisitions and punishments of pioneer scientists to see any value in retribution or to appreciate other religions which brought about progress, peace, justice and human development to their converts. Any well-informed Muslim will be astonished by Russel's denouncement of religion; simply because, to use his rhetoric, "every step toward the treatment of coloured races, every moral progress and every "bit of progress in humane feel ingll was initiated and fostered by Islam and its civilisation in a primitive Arab nation of undisciplined Bedouins. That is why the modern Muslim AIDS prevention practitioner in the Islamic world should be quite aware of the roots of the modern "don't moralisell, Western attitude towards religion and the consequent cringing of Western AIDS experts at the use of religious aspects in their AIDS prevention programs.
This negative attitude is further strengthened by the tendency of the modern Western mind, as Professor Dr. Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas asserts, to dichotomize things into opposite extremes of what he dubs the lIeither or II disposition. Things are either objective or subjective, values are either profane or sacred, governments are either secular or theocratic, economy is either capitalistic or socialistic, sex is either for pleasure or procreation, and people are either white or coloured.
To apply this categorisational approach to the AIDS crisis, one should either ~elieve that epidemics are divine retribution and be considered an unscientific, ignorant reactionary who wants to reinstate the ethically barbarous and inhuman authority of the church, or one can be perceived as a progressive, rational person should one strongly believe that epidemics have their natural courses and God has nothing to do with their aetiology or spread. Listen, for a good illustration of this dichotomous Western mentality, to Lipson in his book, The ethical crisis of civilization. To him one must either give credence to the "nonsensical" belief that AIDS is a retribution sent by God and therefore can only be alleviated by prayer alone, or you totally abandon this medieval mentality and look to scientists for a cure. You cannot believe that AIDS is sent by God and at the same time pray for Him to guide some of His white-coated slaves in labo- ratories to discover a cure. Lipson states:
"AIDs...in the 1990s is claiming its victims on every continent. When one hears about the scientific research now being conducted in laboratories to dis- cover the cause of AIDS and therefrom develop a cure, one is struck by the contrast with what happened in the fourteenth century when the Black Death decimated western Europe...ln today's world many persons still seek advice from astrologers and presumably would give credence to this sort of nonsense; while others consider AIDS to be a punishment sent by God and curable therefore only by prayer. But apart from such surviving examples of medieval mentality, in the tem- per of our times the great majority prefer to look to white-coated medical researchers for rational analysis of a physical problem" (1993, p. 234).
Similar rhetoric is strongly reiterated by almost all authors on AIDS. We have already quoted Masters, Johnson and Kolodny's sarcastic remark ridiculing the belief in God's retribution to the modern sexual revolution. They state:
"And unless one believes that God had a particular gripe with the peoples of central Africa, (the postulated origin of AIDS) it is hard to look at AIDS as a form of divine retribution with a moralistic twist" (1988, p. 17).
The same message is also echoed by the Western media and its audio-visual material on AIDS. For example, in a long video program on AIDS aired in 1989 over the American Discovery channel titled, On the brink: An AIDS chronicle, one of the well-known guest scientists unequivocally stated the following in an emotionally toned oration which I have put down word for word:
"God does not have much to do with it (AIDS). I do not think that He is punishing (a) specific group. On the contrary, society is forced to take stock of minority groups such as drug users and homosexuals and recognize their importance in society. AIDS makes us realize that we need to review the relationships between our social groups."
Scholarly magazines, journals and books ride the same sarcastic wave. See, for example, the comic strip reproduced from the book, Strip AIDS U.s.A.., in which God himself is shown sending a lightning bolt to burn to ashes a priest holding a Bible because he was giving a harsh retributive message to a young man with AIDS (Robbins, 1989).
Another cartoon reproduced by the famous magazine Psychology today show a couple responding angrily with statements like "Are you crazy?", "Are you kidding?, or "You are sick" to some- one saying that "Lung cancer is God's punishment on smokers", "And diabetes is God's punishment on sweet eaters", "And heart disease is God's punishment on joggers" and "And hunger is God's punishment on Ethiopians"; but when he said AIDS is God's punishment to homosexuals, the couple enthusiastically agreed, saying, "You said it! You better believe it! Serves 'em right!" Uanuary, 1986 issue).