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Ignorance about reality - Reality check
Jul 5, 1996

Good afternoon, What are some very practical suggestions or Godly warnings that you could give me concerning a very I could share with a very sexually active female friend of mine? She seems to think that she lives in a world void of disease and refuses to change her dangerous behavior.

Response from Rev. Pieters

I hope that you have already confronted your friend with the known facts of HIV transmission and prevention, and the alarming rate of infection among sexually active women. I hope that you have pointed out to her that HIV is the leading cause of death among women of child-bearing age. If you are also sexually active, you may also have shared with her the precautions you yourself take because of your own knowledge of HIV transmission and prevention. Friends can be good role models for each other. I assume you probably have already discussed the frightening statistics with her, and told her the facts of safer sex practices. Since that does not seem to be enough, perhaps she needs a tough reality check: arrange for her to meet women like her who are living with HIV. Find an HIV/AIDS service agency, a hospital or hospice, or an HIV/AIDS conference where you know some people already, and introduce her to women living with HIV. There is nothing like putting a face on the disease to make it real. As to "Godly warnings," I don't believe they work. People don't change their behavior because of some threat from a vengeful god. People do sometimes change their behavior through therapy, and finding a good therapist may be the best advice you can give your friend. There may be deeply-seated reasons why she continues to indulge in self-destructive behaviors, and the best help for her may be through therapy. If you have tried everything you can to persuade her to change her risky behavior, and she continues to put herself at risk, you must realize that you cannot take responsibility for her actions. People who knowingly put themselves at risk for HIV transmission are, in a sense, committing suicide, or at least flirting with it. We cannot control other people, only ourselves. We can reach out, try to help, and be there for them with love and compassion, but they have to want our help! Unfortunately, there are people who will refuse all help, and to maintain our own sanity, we have to let go and entrust them to God's care. It's called "tough love." Family members and friends of alcoholics and drug addicts often have to learn how to let go of trying to help or "cure" their loved ones from the ravages of chemical abuse. It's a tough lesson, and difficult to do with someone you care about. But to protect your own mental health, you may have to let your friend go, quite intentionally, and simply pray for her.



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