Posts tagged AIDS
First, let me say that “Human Lab Rats” is not the official title of this talk, but as I listened to Boghuma Kabisen’s presentation, that was the only phrase I could think of do describe what is occurring in many parts of the developing world. On the surface, these clinical trials seems great – searching for a cure and providing free medication to patients who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
The problem, of course, is that many of these research efforts are not driven as much by a desire to help people as they are a desire to publish papers, secure grants, build egos and, ultimately, to generate billions of dollars in revenue for pharmaceutical companies. Here in the U.S. and in Europe, we sometimes hear of a clinical trial that put people at significant and undisclosed risk. How much more is that occurring in countries where sick, uneducated, trusting souls are being administered these medications without any real understanding of what is going on?
That a researcher, whether independent, university or corporate, would then leave patients, essentially, to die once the research was completed, says that they fail to value the lives that they are supposed to be saving. Perhaps they see these patients not as people at all, but as “subjects” of experimentation.
I’ve walked and talked with desperate people – in Africa and in other parts of the world. If you offer the possibility of improving their life – if even a glimmer of hope – they will follow after you begging for you to give them what you’ve got. To take advantage of these people is to devalue them in ways that harken back to the days of slavery and colonialism. It reduces them to “less than human” – rats in a lab set up for the purpose of swelling egos and fattening wallets.
Surely we can do better.
A long time ago, God made a promise to Abraham that he would make his descendants as numerous as the grains of sand and that they would be a great nation. From that point on, God made conditions favorable for the people of Israel to prosper and grow in number – even while they were in slavery in Egypt, they grew as a people. And so it’s through that lens that we take a look at some of these Levitical instructions – specifically those involving things like food and disease.
For a lot of us, the idea of clean and unclean foods is pretty foreign. Or, even if we have some understanding of the concept, it just seems like unnecessary regulation – something that was put in place to make people jump through hoops. And, in fact, by the time Jesus came to earth in the first century, the enforcement of these regulations had reached a point where Jesus felt a need to confront those who were policing the food consumption of the people. However, the regulations as presented in Leviticus actually make a whole lot of sense – especially, as I said before, when we view these instructions through the lens of a God trying to protect (and grow in number) his chosen people.
We have to realize that without these rules in place – rules given directly from God – that countless numbers of people would have died from eating rotting meat, meat that was contaminated through the diet of the animal or meat that was not properly prepared. Others would have died from shellfish allergies. Others would have died from eating poisonous creatures that looked harmless to the naked eye. They didn’t have the science to tell them why not to eat these foods. But they did have a loving Father who, through some very strict regulations, protected them from their own ignorance.
Likewise, all of these instructions about skin disease and spreading mold protected people from spreading disease and infection to each other. For a modern day comparison, think of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. This is a disease that is only spread a couple of ways – primarily those in which there is a transfer of blood from the infected person to the uninfected person. And so, if God was writing Levitical law to reflect this reality, it might say something like “If one has sunken eyes and becomes easily ill, that person is to be considered unclean. Anyone who has intercourse with or exchanges bodily fluids in another way with the unclean person is to be considered unclean. Therefore, refrain from exchanging bodily fluids with these people.”
Now, obviously, this little statement doesn’t fully explain HIV/AIDS, but if followed, these simple instructions would greatly reduce the instances of HIV/AIDS in that community. The same was true in ancient Israel. For those people, they had no grid or knowledge to understand communicable diseases or bacteria. What they did have the capacity for was, “Eating this is bad (or wrong) and the price might be death.” Simple and effective. Through regulations like these, God would grow a mighty nation that not only had a lot of people, but a nation full of healthy people. And healthy people can work at a trade and be financially sound. They can form healthy armies that have the upper hand over their enemies. They can pass on healthy habits to their kids. And, ultimately, they can become more like the people that God intended them to be. These regulations, then, aren’t just rules. They are the instructions of a loving and infinitely wise Father. And those kind of instructions, whether we like them or not, are the kind that will save us from our own ignorance.