Zimbabwe (MNN) — Tomorrow is World AIDS Day.
As individuals worldwide seek to raise awareness and stop the spread of AIDS, however, millions in Zimbabwe and across Africa are believing a lie.
Mark Clark with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) calls it the "Great Lie."
"Satan has propagated a lie not only in Zimbabwe, but it's spreading all through Africa: the way to cure yourself of AIDS is to have sexual relations with a virgin," he says.
Because there are few adult virgins left in Africa, men are taking young girls, raping them and leaving them devastated and infected.
In addition to the "Great Lie," Zimbabweans believe those infected with AIDS are cursed and should be avoided. Thus, as young girls are raped and contract AIDS, many families no longer want them.
Through education of youth, TEAM is trying to dispel these myths. They are also seeking to provide the proper medicine needed to strengthen the immune systems of those who are already living with AIDS.
Sadly, Clark says, many individuals have a negative attitude about those infected with AIDS.
"The tendency is to see someone in that situation and think, ‘Oh, they're getting what they deserve; they've sinned, therefore this is a result of sin'," Clark said.
He challenges individuals who hold this attitude to adopt a new mindset and realize that these people still need God. It's important to love the sinner while fighting the sin.
There is also a tendency to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. In Zimbabwe alone, Clark said, over four million people live with AIDS, and another four million are somehow affected by it. We tend to think, "Oh, it's so huge. I can't do anything to make difference," Clark says.
However, this doesn't stop a grandmother in Zimbabwe who simply visits people infected with AIDS everyday to make sure they took their medicine. The medicine boosts their immune systems and prevents them from dying from a secondary disease, such as tuberculosis or malaria. By doing so, she is saving numerous lives.
You can help as well. There are many opportunities, says Clark: "We need people with pastoral gifts, people with medical gifts; we just need people who are willing to love others who are hurting. We need people to say, ‘God, I don't know where You want me to go or what You want me to do, but I am willing.'"
Consider how you can get involved, from your home or by going to Africa. Visit teamworld.org to learn more.