ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--How should society deal with a behavior -– a lifestyle choice -- that places those who engage in the behavior at a high risk for poor health and grave disease?
If the behavior in question is smoking, American society does everything in its power to discourage the behavior to the point of passing laws that make it illegal to puff in public places, even if the public venue is privately owned.
However, if the behavior that results in probable poor health and potentially fatal disease is promiscuous sex, particularly homosexual sex, society only encourages those who engage in the behavior to do so safely.
The result of America's collective attack on smoking is that the rate of those who smoke has decreased dramatically in the United States. Additionally, the attitude toward smokers has shifted from tolerant acceptance to intolerant disgust.
What has society's "safe" approach to immoral and aberrant sex produced? Sexually transmitted diseases that are rampant and common-place, so much so that drugs designed to deal with them are now routinely advertised on television.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has adopted new counting methods that have revealed an HIV rate in America that is 25 percent higher than originally thought.
The CDC estimates there are 50,000 new cases of HIV infection reported each year. Currently 1.1 million people in the United States are believed to be infected with HIV.
All HIV infections are a result of someone's behavior. According to the CDC, in 2006 59 percent of new HIV infections were caused solely by male-to-male sexual contact, and 7 percent by both male-to-male contact and drug use. That means that homosexual men, who comprise approximately 2 percent of the population, accounted for 66 percent of new HIV cases two years ago. Of the remaining HIV cases, 17 percent were transmitted by high-risk heterosexual contact and 16 percent solely by drug use.
The one thing that all the HIV infections have in common is they are a direct result of behavior.
For years homosexual activists insisted that HIV was not a homosexual disease. That has changed. Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, told the organization national conference in February that HIV is "a gay disease."
"Folks, with 70 percent of the people in this country living with HIV being gay or bisexual," Foreman said, "we cannot deny that HIV is a gay disease. We have to own that and face up to that."
Foreman acknowledged what many of us have known for decades: HIV and its companion disease AIDS is dramatically disproportionate among male homosexuals.
The safe-sex message in relation to HIV has been neither wise nor helpful. A report released in 2001 by the CDC concluded that condom use reduces the risk of contracting HIV by only 85 percent -- and then only when used "correctly and consistently."
In a "game" of Russian roulette there is an 83.4 percent chance of firing an empty chamber. However, no one encourages participation in the dangerous game even though the odds of getting a bullet are relatively low. Why? The stakes are simply too high. The same is true for condoms and HIV.
What I find utterly amazing is that while STDs, including HIV, are spread solely on the basis of behavior, society continues to send a message of safety rather than abstinence. And homosexual sex continues to be portrayed as some civil right rather than an incubator for a deadly disease.
It seems that a majority in American culture have surrendered to the idea that sexual desire is so overwhelming, so part of our nature, that it simply cannot be restrained.
In the classic movie "The African Queen" these is a scene where Charlie Allnut, played by Humphrey Bogart, is justifying his propensity to imbibe alcohol. He says to Rose Sayer, a missionary played by Katharine Hepburn, "A man takes a drop too much once in a while, it's only human nature." To which Rose replies, "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above."
Man can rise above any and all negative aspects of human nature -- whether it is a desire to light up a cigarette or engage in risky promiscuous sex.
Given the fact that promiscuous sex, and homosexual sex in particular, is so fraught with negative health consequences and the potential for dread disease, it would seem that society would embrace the same message that it directs toward smokers: Just say no!
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears each week in Baptist Press, is editor of the Baptist Message, the newspaper of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, which is online at baptistmessage.com.