Thursday, March 21, 2013

The HIV+ Samaritan Woman

John 4: 16-17  “16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back. I have no husband, she replied. Jesus said to her, You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

One of my favorite biblical stories is that of the Samaritan woman by the well. On the surface she seems to be a loose, promiscuous home wrecker with no morals but as we look deeper into her life we see a different story marked by pain, suffering and rejection. The bible doesn't give us too many details of her life; the hows, whys, her family and friends are all missing. We basically use what's written in John 4 to help us fill in the gaps and understand this remarkable woman. 

The first question I often ask is: why is this woman drawing water during the hottest part of the day, alone?  Why? All over the world in developing countries women engage in a typical daily routine, drawing for water.  It’s usually the first thing they do in the morning.  And wells usually draw a big crowd because everyone in that community is in need of the same source of water. It is the place friends would meet and town gossips get shared.  This woman obviously did not want to interact with the rest of the community. She would rather draw water, alone during the hottest part of the day. Why?

The second observation is regarding the man in her life, her husband. She confessed to Jesus that she had none to which he replied I know you've had five husbands and the man you’re with now is not your husband.  The interesting part of this conversation is that Jesus would have known that every last one of those five husbands walked out on her.  In the days of Jesus, women had no right to ask their husbands for a divorce but the men can turn their backs on their wives and give them a divorce.  This woman had five husbands who turned their backs on her.  Five accounts of rejection.  Five accounts of humiliation.  Five accounts of disregarded. Five accounts of pain. 

Can you see her? Is she still just a loose, promiscuous woman with no morals?

In the past year I've come in contact with many modern day Samaritan women in my line of work. These are women who have been rejected over and over again.  Women who live with the constant reminder that they’re not good enough or worthy enough for a man to treat them with dignity.  So they hide in shame. No one gets to hear their stories because of fear of judgments.

I met one of these women about a year ago.  She has several children and I believe there are three different fathers and the man she’s with now, I’m not sure if they’re married or the status of their relationship. She didn't have to tell me what happened with the men in her past; they all left for “better” opportunities.  And the hardest reality for her to come to terms with is that one of them infected her with HIV.

Can you feel her pain? Is she still a promiscuous single mother with no morals?

If the Samaritan woman were to live in 2013 she would probably have HIV/AIDS.  That’s the reality of many women around the world; very little education, lack of resources, no voice to negotiate safe sex and the mother of many mouths to feed. They are the ones most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.

The truth is: we need to look deeper at these women.  Jesus did!  Jesus sat with her and engaged her in conversation and saw her with dignity, when everyone else had condemnation. 

Lord, help us learn to love our modern day Samaritan women as you did.

Below are some statistics regarding women and HIV/AIDS

Statistics: Women and HIV/AIDS

In the United States 

Women account for one in four new HIV diagnoses and deaths caused by AIDS.
The proportion of AIDS diagnoses reported among women has more than tripled since 1985.
The vast majority of women diagnosed with HIV contracted the virus through heterosexual sex.
African Americans constituted 64 percent of women diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2009.
African Americans and Hispanics represent 26 percent of all women in the U.S. but they account for 82 percent of AIDS cases among women.
African-American women have an HIV prevalence rate nearly 15 times that of white women.

Around the Globe
Worldwide, women constitute more than half of all people living with HIV/AIDS.
For women in their reproductive years (15–49), HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death.
Women are at least twice as likely to acquire HIV from men during sexual intercourse than vice versa.
A study in South Africa recently suggested that nearly one in seven cases of young women acquiring HIV could have been prevented if the women had not been subjected to intimate partner violence.
In 2011, 57 percent of pregnant women living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries received effective drug regimens to prevent new HIV infections among children.
In sub-Saharan Africa, women constitute 58 percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS.
Among young people aged 15-24, the HIV prevalence rate for young women is twice that of young men.

Sources: UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report 2012; UNAIDS Fact Sheet 2012; Kaiser Family Foundation; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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