Most Christians have supported the 'ABC' approach – abstinence, be faithful, use condoms –in the battle against AIDS. However, faith leaders – including America’s Purpose Driven pastor Rick Warren – are gradually shifting their support to alternative models which are said to be more comprehensive.
Prevention, especially in women who make up over half of the adults infected with AIDS, was a major theme of the International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Toronto last week. During the conference, the ABC model was criticized by some because it fails to address situation and factors such as the helplessness of women. For example, a woman could have abstained from sex until marriage and been faithful to her spouse, but she may still acquire the HIV virus through her husband if he did not tell her he had AIDS or if he was unfaithful.
Rick Warren, who attended and presented at the AIDS conference, said although he thinks ABC is good, he would like to share two alternative models – "SLOW" and "STOP," that consider a greater number of factors and situations. According to Saddleback Church staff members who went to Toronto with Warren, the two alternative models were presented for the first time at the ecumenical pre-conference held a few days prior to IAC.
"Instead of debating ABC, I think the question to ask is: ‘What is the purpose of prevention?’ Tell me what the purpose of prevention is and I’ll tell you which strategy you should use," Warren told The Christian Post this week during an interview. "Is your purpose to curb or reduce the pandemic? Or is it to cure it, get rid of it?"
Warren said many people are more interested in slowing down the pandemic instead of stopping it because they are not willing to make behavioral changes. Although he disagrees, saying it’s a "primarily behavior-based disease," his "SLOW" model offers four steps that will reduce the number of people infected with AIDS.
"SLOW" stands for Supply condoms, Limit the number of partners, Offer needle exchanges to addicts, and Wait for sex as long as possible.
"Those four things will slow the pandemic; no doubt about it," commented Warren. "They’re very popular and at the conference those four were talked about over and over because they don’t require behavioral change. They’re not painful. They don’t allow you to need much discipline. They’re just easy to do. So they’re popular and they’re easy."
However, the "STOP" model, which requires behavioral changes and is "much more difficult," will stop the pandemic in "one single generation," according to Warren. "STOP" stands for Save sex for marriage, Train men to treat women with respect, Offer nutrition and medications through churches, and Pledge yourself to one partner.
Other Christian groups, such as U.K.-based Christian Aid, have also supported alternative strategies to "ABC."
"Now when you ask me what I’m interested in, I’m interested in doing both. I want to ‘slow’ it and I want to ‘stop’ it," said Warren. "So I’ll use anything I can to help save a life."