International AIDS Conference: Two Sides to the Story, but Where is the Truth?

| August 9, 2018

The International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) is like an unkempt braid. There are three distinct stories intertwined in an effort to resemble a whole, yet the individual strands are still evident.

The first story is the one made up of “marginalized groups” advocates, which include “sex workers,” transgender individuals, “men who have sex with men” (MSM) activists, and illegal drug users (amongst others), all calling for de-stigmatization of their statuses.

The second story involves celebrities like the Duke of Sussex, who seem to take a political middle ground as they seek to help the needy.

The third story is the one advocating for those with little to no access to education or health services, such as young children born with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.

Three entirely distinct stories, yet all united in an attempt to prevent and treat HIV. In some ways, this conference is a beautiful example of individuals uniting for a common cause. Yet, much of the conference demonstrates misguided motives or a muddled version of relativistic truth. I was left saddened, wondering how much more work could be done if money and energy went towards the root and heart of the problem, rather than just smoothing over the symptoms or promoting ideological agendas. I will echo my previous blog – people are dying while agendas are promoted.

One of the most clear-cut examples of relativistic truth triumphed at AIDS 2018 was the presentation given by David Malebranche, M.D., M.P.H., during the plenary session on Thursday, July 26th. His presentation was titled “Making the treatment cascade work in vulnerable & key populations.”2* Malebranche is a board-certified internal medicine physician and “expert in men’s and LBGT health” as well as in prevention and treatment of HIV & STIs, and he is an associate professor of medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.1

 One of his final quotes revealed his perspective clearly. Malebranche espoused “a [sexual health] cascade that ends not with viral suppression, but with honest sexual expression, so that we feel free to walk this earth in our truth.”2

“So that we feel free to walk this earth in our truth…” these words are relativism disguised as freedom.

C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity spoke to the idea of absolute truth.3

“But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

From where are Malebranche and the others getting their idea of just and unjust, if they are living their own truth?

What happens when we “live our own truth?” Are we really free?

During the conference, various groups suddenly interrupted speakers in protest. They angrily shouted their agendas and often prevented the speaker from fully completing their address. The problem here is when the notion of absolute truth is stripped away, all else falls with it. When there is no ground for what is good or right other than “living your own truth,” then how can you say, for example, that people cannot interrupt a speaker with unreasonable behavior, if there is no foundation for reason? You cannot.

The reality is that man will go to great lengths to do what he wants, to justify it, and to limit the consequences. This should come as no surprise, when we consider how lost we are without Christ. Reading the words of Paul below led me to remember in humility that I am in the same state without Christ’s redemption and process of sanctification, and without God there is no Truth.

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,  to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.… Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:18-24; 4:32-5:2, ESV)

Mankind was not designed to create truth and to weave our own reality. Once “our own truth” starts unraveling, it is all we can do to keep up with holding the threads.

As Christians, we had to be renewed in the spirit of [our] minds and to put on the new self in order to begin to walk in Truth. This should bring us not to a spirit of contempt or anger as we consider others around us, but to a spirit of humility and mercy. We are called to walk in love as a result of our transformation.

May our walk be consistent with the Truth we have been given, and may we continue to seek Truth as we run after our Father’s heart. May we speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15, ESV), as we seek to spread the grace we have received to the world around us. This is true freedom.

 

  1. “Breaking barriers and building bridges between our responses toward universal health.” AIDS 2018, 22nd International AIDS Conference, 26 July 2018, RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Conference Plenary Session.
  2. Malebranche, David. “Making the treatment cascade work in vulnerable & key populations.” AIDS 2018, 22nd International AIDS Conference, 26 July 2018, RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Conference Plenary Session Presentation.
  3. Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. HarperOne, 2015.

*For Malebranche’s presentation (beginning around minute 1:20:00), click here.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay under the Creative Commons license

 

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