Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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Is there a spiritual explanation for why people get AIDS (is it a punishment or simply a consequence of certain behaviors)? How should a Christian respond to people who have AIDS? Is it appropriate to draw a parallel between AIDS and leprosy in teaching a Biblical response to the issue?

Two categories of people get AIDS:
The first category is the self-afflicted people who get AIDS through high risk, sinful practices like having sex with an AIDS infected person, homosexuality as well as bisexuality and the practice of sharing needles to inject illicit drugs.

The second category is people who, because of hemophilia or other blood clotting disorders have unfortunately received contaminated blood products; or children born to a mother with the AIDS virus.
Regarding the first category: homosexuality is condemned in the Holy Scriptures "Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due" (Rom 1:27) and the spread of AIDS among homosexuals is clearly Godís earthly punishment. The use of drugs is also a sin because our body is the temple of God "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him" (1 Cor 3:16).

As for the second category, contracting AIDS is not a consequence of peopleís own sin, because not every illness is a consequence of sin. As our Lord Jesus Christ replied, when asked by His disciples about the born blind, "who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him" (Jn 9:2-3).

As Christians, it is our duty to love every human being even sinners. Acquiring AIDS due to sinful behavior does not mean eternal condemnation.  There is always an opportunity for repentance. It is our duty to offer hope and comfort to those dying because of sin. We should urge them to repent so that God may accept them unto Him as He has accepted the thief on the cross at the last minute.

You may draw a parallel between AIDS and leprosy as both being God's earthly punishment for sin.  However, people who have AIDS are not considered unclean in the Old Testament terms.  As a matter of fact, once they start to live a life of repentance, they can fully participate in the mysteries of the Church.
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