Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a fatal infection resulting from Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), has had a major impact on the world’s health and economy. First reported in 1981, the number of new cases and deaths quickly rose to epidemic proportions during the 1980’s. A dramatic decline in both new cases and deaths has occurred since the late 1990’s, due to early prevention strategies and more effective antiretroviral therapy. But as of December 31, 2002, 774,467 people in the United States had been reported with AIDS.
The most common modes of exposure have been male-to-male sex (46%), injections drug use (25%), and heterosexual contact (11%). However, the incidences of male-to-male and injections drug use exposures have declined since 1996, while the heterosexual exposure has increased.
During the early years of the epidemic, most AIDS occurred among whites. By 1996, more AIDS cases occurred among blacks than any other racial or ethnic group, although the incident rate has also increased among Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders, and American Indians/Alaska Natives. (Source: United States Department of Health and Human Services, Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, June 1, 2001, 50(21), 430-434.)
In recognition of the multifaceted impact of HIV and AIDS, Goshen College has adopted an AIDS policy. The policy statement responds to the controversies, myths, and discrimination that surround AIDS and persons with HIV infection at various stages of the disease. It addresses AIDS in the context of all other communicable disease including those sexually transmitted. Copies of the entire statement are available from the student life office. A summary of the policy is provided below.
Among the principles undergirding our GC policy regarding AIDS are:
- Our primary task is preventative and educational.
- We will not discriminate in any way against persons with HIV infection.
- The persons with HIV/AIDS will receive from us all the care, compassion, love, and support which we would accord any victim of accident or disease. A person’s lifestyle does not and will not condition our compassionate response. Human need is our only criterion for care.
- The prevention of the spread of AIDS is best assured by adherence to the personal lifestyle which GC has always promoted and affirmed. Therefore, we will continue to affirm and promote a Christian lifestyle free from the use of drugs, and a sexual lifestyle that places genital interaction exclusively within the context of a committed, mutually monogamous, permanent relationship. So called “safe sex” practices are only relatively “safer” at best; they may be ineffective in preventing the transmission of all sexually transmitted diseases. This failure is of deep concern when dealing with a uniformly fatal illness such as AIDS.
The GC policy statement assigns to the Campus Health and Wholeness Committee the responsibility for ongoing educational programming on AIDS. Other responsibilities are assigned to the student life offices, the wellness and health center, and the administration. We are committed to following all U.S. Public Health Service guidelines regarding the attendance at class and the use of college facilities by persons with HIV infection. The college commits itself to compassion, confidentiality, and caring. “We will balance the concern for individual rights with the concern for community protection, and we will expect the infected individual to do the same.”
Goshen College regards the tragedy and crisis of AIDS as an opportunity for Christians to demonstrate the meaning of Christian compassion as well as the opportunity to model with integrity the lifestyle that minimizes most the spread of this virus.
GC counseling and health service personnel are available to students wishing to discuss issues regarding sexuality or sexual behavior. These conversations will be held in strict confidence.